Sunday, July 3, 2016

Witnessing to Jesus

Celebrating our Independence
This weekend we celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which set in motion the United States of America.  No American document has had a greater impact on the wider world.

God bless America so that we may increasingly become, and truly be, and long remain one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus sends out 72 disciples to continue his saving and healing work.  And they reported back how they witnessed to the power of God in their ministry.

Now what does it mean to witness?  I'm a witness not simply if I see or say that something is true, but when I actually experience it.

Prayer: Connecting with God
The disciples were witnesses to Jesus in that sense.  They walked with Him, talked with Him, ate with Him and prayed with Him.  And so Peter could preach: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.”

We too are called to witness to Jesus, like the disciples.  Every Sunday in the creed we testify to our core Christian beliefs.

What men and women look for in us, expect from us, is some visible sign that we have experienced what we believe.

Mahatma Gandhi put it well when he observed, based on his experience with “Christians”: “I like your Christ...(but) your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

We will evangelize effectively only if we are a sort of sacrament, a symbol, an outward sign of God's inward grace/presence within us.  We will touch people only if we ourselves have experienced God's/grace/ presence in our own lives.

God gifts us with faith in Jesus Christ so that they can be witnesses to the Risen Christ.  We are by nature believers. For example, we turn on the car and we expect it to start.

Our faith empowers us to have a right relationship with the triune God.

Faith is richer and deeper than belief.  Faith calls us to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, to follow Him who is our way to eternal life, our truth who sets us free from falsehoods, and our light who illuminates the darkness around us as we journey toward our heavenly home.  Faith is about connected-ness, our personal relationship with God which we nurture especially through prayer.

Belief, on the other hand, is a statement.  The essential truths of our Catholic faith that we proclaim every Sunday, e.g., in the 4th century Nicene Creed.

From faith comes a confidence about life.  We trust in a God who is always near to us, closer to us than we are to ourselves.

This confidence comes from having a purpose in life, taking risks, holding on to our beliefs, and building an arsenal of small successes -- and some failures.  Successes convince us that it is possible to succeed in the future.  Our failures tell us it is possible to survive and go on.  Both are absolutely necessary in developing assurance that things are going to be okay.  We call this divine providence. We are in the hands of an All-Good God.  This God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.

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