In the post-Resurrection scene of the Gospel this coming Sunday (Lk 24:35-48), Jesus appears to the disciples and recalls for them what he had told them. He explains how his life and death was a fulfillment of what was spoken of the Messiah in the Hebrew scriptures, and then calls the disciples “witnesses of these things.” Remember that Jesus is saying this to men who had deserted him in Gethsemani and to Peter, who had denied him three times.
The faith and trust that Jesus puts in these weak and fearful men is amazing, and he puts that same faith and trust in us. Through our Baptism we have been made children of God, heirs of the kingdom that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection opened to us. However, that Baptism also calls us to bear witness to the new life that God has begun in us. He puts this faith and trust in us because he himself makes available to us the grace and strength to carry it through, so that we may witness to him in all situations.
In order to avail ourselves of this grace we need to foster the awareness of his presence, of speaking with him and calling on him in time of need. This was something the saints learned well. However, they each learned how to do it their own way, within the circumstances of their lives. In the book Secret to Happiness St. Pope John XXIII recounts how as a young man, he wanted to imitate St. Aloysius Gonzaga, asking himself what St. Aloysius would do in a given situation. He eventually realized this was not the way to become a saint and states, “I am not St. Aloysius, so I should not try to become holy the way he did, but rather according to my own way of being, my own character, my own circumstances.”
This approach can make all the difference in the way we respond to each other. Recently I was driving on a busy rotary in Boston. The traffic was made worse by construction, and the lanes were disappearing and merging, causing abrupt stops and turns. A woman in another car leaned on her horn, and then threw her hands up in the air. At the time I was saying the Rosary, so a prayer for her and the ability to remain calm seemed to flow naturally. However, I know at other times my initial response might not have been so Christian.
Life is basically made up of small moments, and everything—even and especially what annoys us or makes us suffer—is an opportunity to grow in holiness. It can be as simple as remaining patient with the annoyance of an ill-fitting piece of clothing, or saying a kind word to an irritating co-worker that can help us grow in grace. It is in consistently taking advantage of these “opportunities” that small links in the chain of God’s graces are forged. These strengthen God’s grace in us and help us to grow in virtue, live with God, and witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We will also then be “witnesses of these things.”
Sr. Patricia Mary Maresca has been a Daughter of St. Paul since 1983. Besides evangelizing door-to-door, she has served in several PBM Centers from coast to coast. She is now carrying out a second term in Boston as a provincial councilor.