We are called by God to be witnesses
In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear the challenge to be witnesses to all that Jesus lived and taught while he was on earth. In light of the resurrection and ascension, we are sent out to bear witness to the power of God at work in Jesus and his Holy Spirit.
What is a witness?
A witness is someone who sees or knows something. That person is certain of what he/she has come to know. But most importantly, that person is willing to publicly testify to what he/she has come to know.
As disciples of the risen Lord, to what are we witnesses? It is no less than God’s power at work in the world. The resurrection of Jesus is a display of the power of God.
In our society, power is often thought as the ability to make someone do something: “I am your boss. I have power over you.” “I am your superior…I am your teacher…I am your parent.” Even if you don’t want to do something, I can make you do it.
This not the way God exercises power.
What does it mean to say that God is almighty or all powerful? If God is all powerful, why do we have wars, racism, terrorism, persecutions, and all kinds of hatred? One answer (part of it) is that God gives us freedom: freedom to choose the good or evil. Yes, God is powerful, but not power in usual sense (to force, to compel, to overpower).
Think about it: what is the greatest power in the world? That is the power that God exercises: the power of love. And that is the power to which we, as Christians, are sent to witness.
Pope Francis has said it well:
“In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love,”
“It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory and the power of that love which stops at nothing,
The resurrection of Jesus teaches us that the power of God’s love is more powerful than all the forces of evil: more powerful than those who plotted against Jesus; more powerful than the rulers who condemned him; more powerful than the nails that held him to the cross; more powerful than the finality of death. There is an old hymn which says: “Death could not hold Him, the grave could not keep Him.”
Once again, hear the words of Pope Francis:
“God is stronger than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships… Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love!”
It is the power of love. Love is greater than hate. Love is stronger than death. Death could not hold Jesus. This is why the resurrection of Jesus gives us reason to hope even in our crazy world. It is because we believe that God is still in charge. We believe that good has triumphed over evil.
We believe in the power of God’s love even in the midst of senseless violence, hatred, and terrorist acts; even in the face of corrupt and sinful leaders; even in a world filled with racism, genocide and other prejudices; even in the midst of immorality and greed. The resurrection of Jesus proclaims that God’s love is more powerful. God’s love is stronger than all these evils and more.
It is to this power that Christians are called to give witness.
How do we give witness? By what we say and by what we do. When we are willing to share our faith and explain the basis of our hope, we are witnesses. It means not being afraid to speak out against evil but rather to share our belief in the power of God’s love.
Christian witnesses must also “walk the talk.” We show by our way of life that we trust in the power of God’s love. We do this when we live in a way that shows we are not afraid of things that threaten our world and our lives, when we have the courage to challenge the injustices and bad things people do or say.
We are called to be witnesses to the risen Lord. We can be like Mary Magdalene in today’s gospel. We can go and tell others what we have seen and heard. Let us open our hearts to the outpouring of God’s Spirit which will make us courageous witnesses.