Witness Is Words Made Flesh
WEDNESDAY, Easter week seven: May 11, 2016
The readings express the concern Jesus and Paul have for the protection of the flock after they are gone. In response, the Responsorial Psalm cites the last verses of yesterday’s Psalm, emphasizing God’s power, and inviting us again: “Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth” (Psalm 68).
In Acts 20: 28-38 Paul warns the elders of the Church in Ephesus that “Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth.” To help them unmask these “savage wolves,” he reminds them that his own teaching was made credible by his lifestyle: “I coveted no one's silver or gold or clothing” and “worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions.” Paul showed them by example “that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Authentic Christian witness is built on the example of Christ’s words lived out in action. And this is what sustains the faith of the community. Pope Paul VI was emphatic: “The first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life,” life lived in union with others, in “a communion that nothing should destroy.” We have to resist the divisive influence of those who close in on themselves and separate from the Church as if they were the only true believers. Authentic Christians value union with the Church — hierarchical, clerical and lay — above all particular issues, no matter how strongly they feel about them. Christian life is communal but not clannish: at the same time it is “a life given to one’s neighbor with limitless zeal.”
Pope Paul VI was prophetic when he wrote, “People today listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” It is the teaching of Pope Paul that “the Church will evangelize the world by… the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity” (Evangelization in the Modern World, #41).
In John 17: 11-19 Jesus takes for granted that his disciples will be at odds with their culture: “The world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.” We cannot be prophets and conformists at the same time. Witnesses, Paul VI says, radiate “faith in values that go beyond current values, and hope in something not seen, that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness they stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live” Ibid. #21). This is to be a prophet.
Initiative: Be a prophet. Structure your life in a way that does not make sense to people of our culture; in a way that can only be explained through the Gospel.