Summary: Christ calls all of us to witness to the love of God and the presence of a Savior
Monday After Ascension
“You Will Be My Witnesses”
17 May 2010
Jesus came to reverse the curse of Babel. In the Mesopotamian plain, human beings played gods in their arrogance, and God scattered them over the earth, multiplying their languages. In the upper room, and at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit brought the scattered apostles together and empowered them to preach the word, effect the sacramental presence of Jesus, and bring into one all the scattered children of Adam and Eve. Time after time, the sins of human beings have scattered God’s children–we call those scattering events heresies. Arianism, Monophysitism, iconoclasm, the catastrophe of 1054, and the great multiplying heresy and schism called the Protestant Revolution have turned Christianity into a patchwork of conflict and controversy. This is contrary to the mind of Christ, who prayed that we all be one. We can’t assume that mere Scripture study will improve things, either. To take one simple example, the clear meaning of today’s reading from Acts, at least the clear reading when informed by the Church, is that some little communities, like this one in Ephesus, were baptizing people after sharing with them the repentance Gospel of John the Baptist. Paul preached the full Gospel of Jesus and then baptized them, using the formula Jesus left us in Matthew 28: in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But early in the 20th century, some protestants, usually pentecostals, seized on this and a handful of verses from Acts and taught that the Church had been doing things wrong for 1900 years, and they dunk people under the water, say simply “in Jesus’s name,” and thus have invalidly baptized hundreds of thousands of people into an heretical sect. All these folks have to be baptized validly when they enter the Catholic Church, just like Mormons.
So if we are to see the fulfillment of Christ’s will, we can’t just either assume that folks will read the Bible and be saved, or rely on some false Gospel of salvation through inculpable ignorance. Today I begin a fairly brief homily series on Archbishop Gomez’s pastoral letter, You Shall Be My Witnesses. It is the Church’s call to evangelize, to spread the Good News. He tells us “we are blessed. . .to know Jesus Christ. To know the love of God our Father. To know that we are children of God.” We are destined in love from the foundation of the world to be sons and daughters of God in Christ. God made us “to live for the praise of his glory” (1) That is the true purpose of our lives. At the foundation of all our responsibilities, sorrows, joys, objectives is the one goal–to live for the praise of God’s glory. In that calling we find the true meaning and purpose of life. When we give God praise, even in suffering, we imitate Christ most fully. He was the one who, even in the depth of his seeming abandonment, when He prayed “My God, why have you forsaken me,” could also finish the hymn by saying –I will praise God in the great assembly.
But this calling is universal, and it is not automatically felt by every human being. Every human has a longing deep in the heart for union with God. But the world, the flesh, and the devil distract from that call, and put obstacles in the way of realizing that vocation. So “God wants us to tell others about Jesus Christ, in whom we see the face of our Father and experience his love and tender mercy in our lives.” This is why the last command, the last of the Sacred Words Jesus gave us in Matthew 28 is clear: teach all nations, baptizing them. In Acts we read, “You will be my witnesses unto the ends of the earth.” Today “more than ever, Christ needs witnesses. He needs disciples who know and love him to testify to the truth of his living presence among us, and to testify to the Good News that this troubled world of ours has a Savior.”