The theme for the pastoral year 2020 – 2021 is “You Are My Witnesses” (cf. Acts 1:8), a call for all of us to be a witness of our God to the world. Witnessing, bids us ask ourselves a few pertinent questions like, have I had an experience of God? Have I made an effort to experience God, in the first place? What has the experience given me? What am I doing to complement and supplement that experience? Is my experience real? Is it authentic? If it is, how authentic is it? These questions must then be answered if we want to be genuine witnesses of the good works our God has done and continues to do in our lives. Meditation on this theme will give us time to introspect and trace our spiritual maladies seeking healing to be worthy witnesses to the world.
St. Paul was desperate to wipe out the followers of Christ but on his way to Damascus he experienced the risen Lord. He experienced the God of his life. He was blinded by the vision and filled with the Holy Spirit. Thus, he decided to go out to the whole world and preach the good news to everyone. Experiencing God is not in our hands, it is a gift, but our attempt and striving to know our God is vital.
“God’s love is unbounded: it has no limits,” said Pope Francis. Having made efforts, God’s love would become more evident to us. The effort then becomes crucial. Feeling and being with the Lord during the pandemic has become difficult for the majority of us, but our willingness to recognize the working of the Lord during the day, trying to see His miraculous presence with us, in shaping and moulding us with every incident that happens around us is already a step closer to understanding and experiencing Him.
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation published in 2013, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) wrote how we ought to share the joy and mercy we experience. He wants each of us to share the joy of faith; the joy one feels after the beautiful encounter one has with the muse of one’s life rather than imposing individual beliefs. Sharing this joy will multiply the good that is bound to happen. It will bring humanity closer to one another, which implies that we will be able to understand the inequality, violence, and disharmony that prevail in our society. Having comprehended we will be able to face these challenges with maturity. Keeping the common and the sole purpose in mind i.e. the good of humanity.
Pope Francis advocates vigilance towards the injustice faced by the poor marginalized due to the complex capitalist and globalized society. We are therefore called to be harbingers of justice, peace, love, and charity. Here charity requires us to forget ourselves and do everything required of us estimating our neighbours good. Good Samaritans we can be by our timeless service motivating humanity.
The moment our efforts to experience God has paid us and we have experienced Him truly, it will not keep us silent. It will drive us crazy. Crazy for God is being crazy for our neighbour. Our neighbour then will be right at the top of our mind. If our neighbour’s heart is afflicted we will be agents to revive that heart with zeal for God. If there is someone whose mind is darkened by all the atrocities happening, we will be the candles shining brightly giving the warmth these minds need. This will make us joyful and hopeful of the unknown but wonderful future that awaits us.
Our actions more than us will affect the brethren to whom we become beacons. The change from the hate-filled heart to a loving heart that seeks God and a darkened life to a light-filled life will be our fruit. The fruit will be our gift to God who has gifted us the faith we profess. Interestingly, the fruit we reap will give us the impetus to be more generous witnesses. But all of this will happen only when we seriously put our hearts and minds together to pray.
Prayer I believe is a continuous conversation with our God. He listens to us and we listen to Him. There could be fights between us and there could be loving conversations to be cherished. All of it contributes to making us resolved, mature, faithful, and generous witnesses. Then there are people who degrade our good work. Surrender all of them and their hatred to the almighty.
All of our religious, political, sociological histories cannot be forgotten but can we begin painting a new one for a hope-filled future? It will require collaboration, mutual understanding, support, ideation from everyone, and serious deliberation on impending issues that become a hurdle to us becoming a witness. Not that all of these discussions weren’t happening in our state. But the spirit is slowing dwindling. Rekindling that spirit will ensure us marching ahead of times. A Malawian proverb says, “God is as the wind which touches everything.” We shall, therefore, be the instruments of God ready to get moulded, shaped, and pruned when necessary, becoming refined yet remaining humble witnesses.