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Witnessing is a great way to help others. Let me give you an example. Suppose the police made a mistake and thought I robbed a bank. I then turn to the arresting officers and asked, “When did I do this”? They said, “Last Sunday morning at about 11:15.” I thought to myself, “Wait a minute, I was saying Mass last Sunday at that time; I have witnesses. Perhaps a few good people who were at St. Clement at that time will come to the police and testify on my behalf. “Fr. Peter wasn’t robbing the bank Sunday morning. He was saying Mass. I saw him. He wasn’t getting money from the bank; he was getting money from us in the collection.” I could have been stuck in courts for years but a witness or two came to my defense had an enormous bearing on my life. This is always true when we are witnesses to God.
I believe the most important accomplishment in the Bible was the women who stood under the foot of the cross. I can imagine while they were standing there idle, they didn’t feel very useful to Christ. They did not make a change or a difference at the time. They may have wondered what good would come from just being there, but here is what happened. Little did they know that three days after Jesus rose from the dead, a group of guys would fabricate a lie about Jesus’ Resurrection. They would say that the disciples stole the body. That lie did not survive because of the women. They were there when Jesus died, and they were there when His body was buried in the tomb, and they were there to see Jesus alive three days later. They thought they were not doing anything while Jesus was dying, but they could not have been doing something more important. Their witness had an enormous effect on the Church.
During my last year of theology an elderly priest came to the seminary to retire after fifty years of missionary work. You can imagine what fifty years of going up and down the Amazon to serve villagers along the river will do to your body. I was assigned to take care of him. I had the room next door to his. He had a small table bell that he used whenever he needed anything such as a newspaper, a cup of coffee, a walk, some food, the restroom, or a change of clothes. He told me he always felt bad when he had to ring the bell and get me. He always thought he was a burden to me. He was painfully aware that I had to read books, write papers, and prepare presentations. Yet, he was not a burden. Here is why. I didn’t learn theology from a book. I didn’t learn how to live Christ’s life from a university professor, and I did not learn how to be a priest from a lecture series. I learned it all from the guy next to my room. He thought that his disability and his frail body — that he got from a life of service to our Lord — was a burden for me. Yet, to me, he was a witness. I could see what years of service to others looks like when I help him out of his chair.
Witnessing can benefit people. In John’s Gospel this week, the Greeks want to see Jesus. How do we show Christ to the world? Do we give them a book, offer a lecture series, give them a to-do list? Remember, the best advertising is a happy customer. The best way we can witness to God to others is the way we live our lives. Be happy customers, we are hope-filled, generous, kind, slow to anger.
There is a fable about a guy who walked up to a stranger in town who was holding a very large diamond that covered the palm of his hand. The guy asked the stranger how he came into possession of it. He responded that he found it while traveling. The stranger then said, “If you like it so much, you can have it.” So the man took the diamond, wrapped in a silk cloth, and placed it in the safe. He did not sleep all night. He got up the next morning, took the diamond, and found the stranger. He handed back the diamond and said, “I know that you have something more valuable than this diamond, otherwise you would not have given it up so easily. I want the thing you have that made it easy for you to give me this diamond.”
We have something very valuable in us. Let people see what we have. Witnessing can be very helpful to others.Back to All Homilies