By Fr. Chris Ballard
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” –John 1:29-34
To give Christian testimony is to do more than just say words. We need to back up those words by the way we live our lives. John’s testimony to Jesus Christ involved dying for him. The word “martyr” means witness.
There are three characteristics of a Christian witness that we should try to nurture in our lives (well, there are probably more than three, but let’s stick to three for the sake of brevity!). Conviction, charity and joy.
We must be convinced of the truth of our faith. In our pluralistic society it can seem un-American to say that our Christian faith is the Truth. It would be easier just say, “Your truth is true for you and my truth is true for me. Let’s just leave it at that!” Jesus Christ had that same argument with Pontius Pilate before he was condemned to death: “‘For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?'” (John 18:37-38). Jesus came to this world for the Truth. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life, not a way, a truth, a life. Jesus did not die on the cross for his opinion or for a truth, but for the Truth. We don’t have to apologize for believing this and if we are not convinced of it, no one else will be either.
The flip side of conviction is charity. We need to witness to our faith with conviction, but also with charity. Charity needs to inform all that we do. Charity needs to be our motivation. That’s how Jesus did it in the Scripture. When Jesus encountered the woman caught in adultery, he did not condemn her. He dismissed the crowd and treated her with love, compassion and mercy. This needs to be the way we treat others as well. Notice, though, that Jesus says to the woman, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:11). Jesus does not waver on his values, on the Truth. What she did was wrong. He tells her not to do it again. However, he approaches her with love, compassion and mercy and that is why her heart is changed.
We need to witness to our faith with joy! If we are witnessing to the Good News of our salvation in Jesus Christ with a frown on our face, who is going to believe us? When we walk out of church, we need to be smiling! We just heard the Good News! We just received Jesus in the Eucharist! If it is truly Good News, then we need to show it. Pope Francis said, “Don’t be sourpusses!” Our joy will attract others to the faith.
We are all called, by virtue of our baptism to give witness to Jesus Christ. Priests do it in a unique, special and public way. As you discern priesthood, pray for conviction, charity and joy so that you can give effective witness to Jesus Christ to a world that needs it so badly.