The Courage To Testify
THURSDAY, Easter week two:
The Responsorial Psalm tells us: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor” (Psalm 34). He pours out on them his Spirit and bears witness through them.
Acts 5: 27-33 shows us the Apostles—ordinary, weak men without any human power or resources—standing up to the highest authority in Israel, the Sanhedrin (council of seventy-one elders, chief priests and scribes, presided over by the high priest). Their strength came from the certitude of their faith about two things: 1. God had raised Jesus from the dead and “exalted him… as leader and Savior.” 2. They were doing God’s will: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” Ultimately, this is where our own strength comes from as we try to live the Christian life. Other things may motivate us more consciously or immediately. But this is the rock-bottom foundation of our courage, and we need to be aware of it.
What was God’s will for the Apostles that they were so sure about? It was to bear witness: “We are witnesses of these things.” They had to bear witness because they were witnesses. Even in civil law, people who know something about a case being tried are obliged to testify; it is their duty. Does that oblige us to testify to Christ?
But are we witnesses? We did not see Jesus rise. What makes us able to testify to him?
The Apostles said that they were bearing witness along with “the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” What we are witnesses to is the certitude the Holy Spirit has given us: the certitude of faith: the greatest certitude there is.
Faith is vision. St. Paul said, “At present we see indistinctly [or “darkly”], as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12), but we see. We don’t imagine, guess, speculate, simply accept what others have told us or just draw conclusions from rational arguments. We see. Faith is an act of sharing in God’s own act of knowing. It is the gift of knowing with the certitude of vision without the experience of seeing in a human way.
We see in a divine way. John 3: 31-36 insists on the contrast between “the one who comes from above” and “the one who is of earth.” The one from above—Jesus—“testifies to what he has seen and heard.” And those who accept his testimony “see” the truth with him and in him, as members of his body, through the gift of the Spirit. The experience of grace is the source and foundation of all Christian witness. We need to get in touch with our experience of the Spirit by living according to his inspirations.
Begin by taking God’s words seriously. The rest will follow. “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
Initiative: Be a prophet. Live divinely. Act on what you see by the light of faith.