On 13th May 2017 we had a recollection organized by the Jomo Kenyatta University – Catholic Community Alumni Association (JKUAT CATCOM ALUMNI). It is one of the events that the group organizes and members participate in. Other activities being: a charity event; an annual planning meeting and an annual Mass at JKUAT main campus.
This year’s recollection was special, not only because it has been a while since we were together as a group, but also because it was facilitated by an alumnus of JKUAT CATCOM. Many of us remember him singing tenor in the CATCOM Choir, getting stressed with assignments and exams like the rest of us, as an organizing secretary of CATCOM, or even as the fastest man during social day. It was fascinating to watch him on the other end facilitating a recollection, celebrating mass. It was seeing him in a new dimension.
Whatever he taught was also a new dimension to what we are used to, where as a disciple, we are supposed to preach through more than our words. Many are the times we fail to do that because we preach one thing and do something else. He encouraged us to teach by witnessing. An action based kind of preaching Christ. The online dictionary gives the definition of witnessing as: to give or serve as evidence of or testify to. We are called to live life as an evidence of Christ in us, to be a living testimony of Christ in our lives.
How do we do that?
In Mathew 28:16-20, Christ gives us a command, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. He authorizes all whom he have called for himself to go and make disciples. In Acts 1:8, we are told, we will be witnesses of God. In the famous walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:16-35), after resurrection, Christ exemplifies what teaching by witnessing is all about in the following ways:-
Jesus went with them: – We must walk with those we are witnessing to. We must go where the flock is. “If we are to be good shepherds, we must smell like sheep.” – Pope Francis. We must live in such a way that those we are witnessing to recognizes us as followers of Christ. The famous statement preaching water and drinking wine does apply. We must live according to Christ’s teaching and in this way, we will be preaching Christ with our actions. We however may not be recognized by our own, just like the disciples failed to recognize Christ on the walk to Emmaus. This could be due to sadness in their hearts due to whatever experiences they are going through just like Christ’s disciples were sad because He was dead. There could be detachment between “Us and Them”, meaning just because we know Christ, we start living in utopia and detach ourselves form the realities of their daily emotions that affect who they are and what they believe in, we become strangers to them. There could be because of hopelessness and doubt, just like the disciples doubted the resurrection even after the women shared the good news of the resurrection and were hopeless because He whom they believed will “save” them from the Roman oppression was no more.
Jesus was patient with them: – Jesus walked with them the whole journey. He not only walked and listened to their version of what had happened in Jerusalem, but also explained to them the scripture. Not just a single verse expounded, he explained from the old and new testament, the first to the last prophets and how Christ fit in in the whole picture. He listened to their foolishness, and filled it with knowledge. How patient are we when our Christianity is challenged by doubt. How knowledgeable are we on the gospel of Christ. How willing are we to sit and explain it to those we encounter, like explaining the concept of lightning and thunder to a three year old.
Jesus Nurtured a strong Bond: – Christ’s journey with the two disciples was a great encounter. He understood their weaknesses. He taught them patiently, in a language they could understand what salvation was. He made himself part of them, of their weak selves. However much he did not participate in their foolishness, they felt understood. They felt they belonged. They felt identified and appreciated. They felt wanted. They felt a part of this stranger who did not rebuke them for being foolish but accepted that they needed a little more knowledge so they could understand. They felt appreciated even in their weakness. How many times do we seek to be appreciated for who we are? How often do we identify ourselves with those who we deem unknowledgeable? How many times do we flee from those who are really in need just because we do not want to be associated with them? How many times do we alienate those we deem different from us? We are called to nurture strong bonds with those we encounter, those who need to encounter Christ through us. We are called to “Make Disciples, before we can teach or baptize them”. They can only become disciples if they feel appreciated, not condemned for who they are.
In Acts 2:22 & 32; we are called to witness the risen Christ. We are called to be the living faith amongst the lay Christians. We are called to be the light of the world, not the light in the world. We are called to live such that in our absence, the light we lit will still shine in those we encountered while we lived. We are called to give who we are not to give what we have. We need to give ourselves to those we are witnessing to because giving ourselves is an act of love. We are called to, like St Francis of Assisi “preach the word always, but only use words when necessary”. The modern man listens more to witness more than to teachers…
An example is given of St. John Marie Vianney who despite his deficiencies in formal studies, he witnessed Christ as a great confessor who touched many souls beyond his parish and indeed his country.
Lay Christians who witness Christ with their lives do as much evangelization as ordained ministers. When we understand that we were created for a purpose then we live a fulfilling life and influence all those around us positively. Let us also remember to pray for others.
Above all “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect …” (1st Peter 3:15).