A parishioner wrote the following article on witnessing. I have edited it for the purpose of this column.
“You are my witnesses, says the Lord, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that I am the Lord. (Isaiah 43:10)
Every week I find myself sitting in my pews, praying for Jesus to meet me this day and send me out to do his will, bringing his Word to others. I recite the prayer that all Catholics say before the gospel is proclaimed: “Jesus, please let your Word be on my mind, always on my lips, and forever in my heart.” After all these years I am finally comprehending the meaning of these words. I am asking Jesus to let his Word be always on my lips!
Christians are called to be witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ! In Acts 1:8, Jesus commissions his disciples right before his Ascension into heaven with their primary task. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
That word “witness” sometimes leaves a funny taste in some mouths. Witnessing is not always a part of our “comfort zone.” We were taught as youngsters that we were not to talk about two subjects in public: religion and politics. Only a Christian fundamentalist would dare corner you on the street, step into your personal space crying, “Are you saved?”
When God sent me into this world, my parents were practicing Methodists who became Episcopalians and finally found a home in the Catholic Church. When I first experienced someone asking me if I was saved, I was thrown off guard. My immediate naive answer was, “Yeessss! Isn’t everyone? Jesus died for all our sins?” I wasn’t even aware that there were people in the world who didn’t believe in Jesus, much less those who had never heard of Jesus! I had no idea what they meant by a personal relationship with Jesus! Didn’t we all have that?
I went on a retreat recently and became aware that all Christians have a responsibility to witness to Christ in their lives. We will have to answer for this on Judgment Day! Jesus told us, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8-9) I don’t want to be denied before the angels of God. We have a responsibility to witness to Christ Jesus, not just verbally but also with our lives. Being a living witness can be easier than witnessing verbally, but we are called to do both. St. Paul is a perfect role model for expressing faith in Jesus. Read some of his letters for inspiration.
I have my own very powerful witness. God has given me many opportunities to use it, and has provided me with beautifully open souls who were in need and want to hear it. There are times people need to hear God’s word and may not know it. We should always pray to the great Heavenly Lover, the Wise Counselor, the Holy Spirit to inspire us with the words that God wishes that person to hear. We should be instruments in the hands of God, saying “Yes, Lord” even in our discomfort.
Moreover, we should let go and let God take over. Then we will be his witnesses throughout our world, “Telling of his salvation from day to day. Declaring his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.” (Psalm 96:2-3)