Mission Sunday

In November 1995 John Barlow was convicted and sentenced to a non-parole prison term of 14 years at a third trial after two previous juries were unable to convict him.

I attended some of the court sessions, and one of my observations was that those giving witness appeared as much on trial as the person being held.

On occasions, individuals would be thoroughly examined by both the prosecuting attorney and defence attorney.

Being in the witness box was not a comfortable place to be!

Pope Francis’ message for World Mission Sunday this year reflects on the theme: “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Does he desire us to be “uncomfortable” Christians?

Almost 50 years ago, St Paul VI wrote,

“Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness.

“Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show a capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good.

“Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine.

“Through this wordless witness, these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live:

        • Why are they like this?
        • Why do they live in this way?
        • What or who is it that inspires them?
        • Why are they in our midst?

“Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one.” – (Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope Paul VI, 1975; No. 21)

Giving witness to Christ today requires precisely that we build communities that are wide enough to hold our differences.

What we need is

not a new technique,

but a new sanctity;

not a cooler dress,

but a more inclusive embrace;

not some updating of the gospel to make it more acceptable to the world,

but a more courageous radiating of its wide compassion;

not some new secret that catches peoples’ curiosity,

but a way of following Christ that can hold more of the tensions of our world in proper balance so that everyone, irrespective of temperament and ideology, will find themselves better understood and embraced by what we hold most dear.