Can I Get a Witness?

July 13, 2023
Can I get a Witness?
Dear friends of St. John’s, I am about halfway through my summer assignment and cannot believe how fast the days have gone! Time does seem to fly by when you are having fun. What has made my summer joyful is that so many of you have warmly welcomed me to join the parish to be a part of something greater than just an “assignment.” I’d like to call it a “missionary experience” where everyone has a part to play. At the heart of this joy is the presence of Christ living and alive among the people of the parish; it’s that “something” which the world does not know and cannot give. Such power heals, transforms, and reshapes the very way we live our lives and understand reality. The call to mission is no longer only an international affair, it’s something we must undertake in our homes and in our community. When I learned of the parish’s newest theme for the upcoming program year, “Gather to Witness,” it struck me as profound because it so perfectly encapsulated the fruits of what I have seen in this parish, but at the same time, it invites us to consider an even greater abundance of joy to be experienced in the world if we live out this call to witness even more fully.

Ordinarily speaking, a witness is one who bears testimony to others. In the courtroom, it is the person who furnishes the evidence of proof to a jury as an eyewitness to something important. We see the word witness used in the bible like this, but also in far greater ways. In the big picture of the bible, God wants an entire group of people to bear witness to God’s saving acts. For example, in the Old Testament, God asked the 12-tribes of Israel to live as a people set apart so that they might bear witness to His saving acts to the world. It is only through our Lord Jesus Christ who became the true and perfect witness by manifesting himself and offering his very life in the flesh for the world that the supernatural context to being a “living witness” takes shape.

As light reflects its source in a mirror, the people of St. John’s have shown me what it means to bear witness to others by reflecting the image of Christ. For example, when I see the love our funeral volunteer crew gives to grieving families by way of hospitality and service, I see our Lord who visits Mary and Martha who are in grief over the death of Lazarus. When I see such a great multitude of children being baptized each month, I see the divine life of the trinity being poured out and blessing us in souls here and among us. When I see the work of our priests and parishioners who bring communion to the sick, homebound, and dying, I see our Lord who comes to visit us in our own suffering and how Christ offers us new life through His passion, death, and resurrection. When I see the countless volunteers and staff committed to teaching, forming people of all ages, and professing the truth of the Gospel, I see our Lord proclaiming the good news about the Kingdom of God where the lowly are lifted up. When I see the rich representation of the people of St. John’s of varied ages, backgrounds, gifts, and talents, I see the Mystical Body of Christ alive, active, and ready for mission in a hurting world. This is exciting!

We have something to give that the world so desperately wants but does not know. The last words our Lord leaves with us before His glorious ascension are these: “you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). In what ways is the Lord calling you to bear witness to this transcendent gift that only our faith can offer?

May God’s grace and peace abound,

Deacon Derek Gilde