"…and You Shall be My Witnesses…" Acts 1:8
By Father James W. Kordaris
Forty days after His Resurrection, at the time of His Ascension, Jesus gathered His disciples with Him and promised that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. He called upon them to be His witnesses “…in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This same calling is directed to each one of us – not just to professional religious people such as clergy and monastics. This calling to be witnesses of the faith was originally directed to the disciples, who were faithful people with ordinary professions. And these people changed the world by their witness. They didn’t do this by use of their vast knowledge of theological issues, but by their simple faith in what they had experienced in Jesus.
The front lines of Jesus’ army today are you – faithful men and women who live ordinary lives in the world, attending school, making a living, raising families, participating in the daily life of our society. You are the ones who will reach the people whom we as clergy may never see – relatives, friends, coworkers, and in athletics, clubs and organizations. You will be placed in situations where you will be a witness to your faith – not by standing up and preaching – but by the way you conduct yourself as a Christian. In whatever you do, you are a Christian first – a Christian athlete, a Christian doctor, a Christian in business, a Christian parent, Christian teacher, a Christian friend.
There will be good days – those days when things fall into place and you feel that God is using the gifts that He has given you for His purposes. You will sense that He has placed you in a certain situation for which you are uniquely prepared. You will succeed and hopefully you will honor Him with your success, knowing that all that you accomplish has come from Him.
There will be bad days – those days when the world seems to reward those who do not honor God or His commandments, those who strive to succeed regardless of the spiritual cost to themselves and others. Success, as it is measured in the world today seems to reward unethical, un-Christian behavior. As Christians living and working in this world, we struggle to remain faithful, and are wounded in the battle.
Saint John Chrysostom referred to the Church as a “hospital” where people come to wash away their sins. The Church is like an army field hospital where clergy and staff work behind the lines, providing spiritual nourishment and a place to be healed and refreshed in the faith. People enter these doors each week, tired and wounded in their daily lives, doing their best to be faithful Christians in a world that does not always encourage or reward Christian values.
The Church should be a safe place. Just like the giant cross painted on the army field hospitals and vehicles to keep them from being attacked, the cross of this church should remind us all that Church is a safe place where we come to be healed, to be what God created us to be, free from the fear of attack.
We are healed by praying and worshipping with others. There is a great sense of community that gives us strength when we pray and worship together in liturgy. We pray for ourselves and others and we thank God for the many blessings in our lives
We also lay out our troubles before Him, as Hezekiah did in the Old Testament when he “spread out his troubles before the Lord.” There is no problem so small that we cannot place it before God in prayer. As Saint Paul wrote to the Philippians, “…in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will set your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It is important to let God speak to us. The Holy Spirit may move us in the silence of prayer, in interaction with other people of faith, and through the reading of Holy Scripture. This often-neglected source of spiritual nourishment has the ability to change your life. Reading our Bible, participation in worship and sacraments, and daily prayer provide us with the spiritual armor to face the challenges of daily life and to be witnesses of our faith by the way we live our lives.
In his book, Bread for Life, New Testament Professor Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos writes, “God will provide many opportunities to the growing Christian for sharing with others his or her experience with the Bible. What better witness for the truth of the Christian faith than a solid Christian life nourished by Holy Scripture and radiating true Christian love at home, at Church and at work?”
God will place you in situations to share your faith. As He called upon His disciples on the day of His Ascension, He has also called upon you to be His witnesses “…in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”