“Credible, Caring, Witnesses” Saturday Homily


In the 1985 movie, “Witness”, an 8 year old Amish boy named Samuel Lapp witnesses a murder in a Philadelphia train station bathroom Because of what he as seen the boy, his mother and a police detective who was wounded while trying to protect them are forced to flee from the murderers. Having witnessed a death, their own lives will be endangered until the criminals are brought to justice. In order to survive they hang out in plain sight within a rural Amish community.

Witnessing of another sort is featured in the readings for today. Rather than be witnesses only of the death of their Lord and friend, the disciples were called to witness to his life. Like the young Samuel Lapp, the witnessing of those first believers put their lives in danger.

Charged by the risen Lord to bear authentic witness to the suffering, dying and rising of Jesus and to the forgiveness and salvation that has been made available to all sinners through him, the disciples offered brave and bold testimony. While they had previously been reluctant to raise their voices in public or to attract attention to their association with Jesus, their experience of him as risen made them fearless witnesses. By virtue of that witness, their numbers grew along with their realization that Christ died not just for their sins or only for the sins of the Jews “but for those of all the world.”

The agenda of Jesus was determined by the needs of those he had come to serve. For that reason every place became a venue wherein Jesus would witness to the love of God. In doing so, he extended the tender mercies of God to all human persons without distinction. Nor was there a certain limited time frame in which Jesus offered his testimony; every moment of every day and night, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether planned or spontaneous, every moment was ripe with opportunity for his witness of his words and works.

As always, our reflection on Jesus and on those first followers, through whose witnessing we have come to believe, requires a look inward. Because we have the privilege and responsibility of continuing to testify to the dying and rising of Jesus, ours is a witness that must be true. Like Jesus’ witness, the witness we bear is to be creative, constant and conspicuous. Even before we utter a word, our demeanor with regard to all things and all persons should speak volumes about our care and respect , and about our devotion to all things great and small. On this quality of witness, Thomas Merton once said:

“A saint preaches sermons by the way he walks and the way he stands. .the way he picks things up and holds them in his hands.”

Merton also described a saint as:

“a window through which God’s mercy shines on the world and for this reason he strives to be holy in order that the goodness of God might not be obscured by any selfish act.”

When Merton uses refers to saint he is referring to all of us who are witnesses to the mission and person of Jesus.

St. Frances said: “preach the Gospel at all times but use words sparingly.” The call of the Gospel is for us to witness to Christ with our daily lives—the way we spend our money, the way we treat our neighbor, the way we treat the stranger.

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