Witnesses for whom?
This evening, Tom’s family does something special together.
About a year ago, Sue – Tom’s sister – came from California to visit his little family. She strongly reminded him of their family tradition handed down from their parents when she saw the Bible book covered with dust on the altar. Their parents had eight children. Though being very poor, they gathered the whole family every evening to give thanks to the Lord. It was this simple habit/practice that helped the family overcome many big waves in life. Sue told Tom that many conflicts in his little family resulted from the absence of common prayer. Compared with their parents’ family, Tom’s family is much more wealthy and comfortable in many ways. They only have one son to take care of. But they often have disharmony and they don’t know how to solve conflicts. Sue pointed to the altar, saying to Tom:
“Your have been wasting a treasure in your very home.”
At first Tom and his wife – Bella – got upset with Sue. But they thought about her words and began their family prayer times, reciting the prayers they had learned by heart when growing up. The family atmosphere got improved and more harmonious.
About a month ago, Bella – a convert – asked her husband about the meaning of a verse in the Gospel. She told him that a colleague had asked her about it but she couldn’t give an answer. Tom was embarrassed because he couldn’t either. Two days ago, their eight-year old beloved son, Elias, asked them a question:
“Did Jesus have brothers and sisters?”
Tom and Bella looked at each other. They had heard and believed that Jesus was the only child of Mary, but they did not know how to explain this to their son. Feeling uneasy about their situation, they took down the dusty Bible from the altar and began to study it seriously, not only for themselves but also for their son. Then their family agreed to spend Sunday evenings to deepen their knowledge of the Bible.
Today is Sunday. They get together after dinner. Elias asks his parents to look at the Gospel proclaimed this morning at church. Then he asks:
“The pastor preached this morning that Jesus commanded his disciples to be witnesses of his passion and resurrection to all nations. They obeyed him. But I have a question.”
Each time when hearing Elias say he has a question, Tom and Bella are both glad and worried at the same time, glad for him and worried for them.
Bella replies, “Sure, tell us your question.”
Elias says, “All the people in our area already know Jesus. Do we still need to be witnesses of Jesus to them?”
His question comes as another surprise to them. They look at each other. No answer is ready. Tom quickly has a suggestion:
“Good question! Let’s have a little moment of silence to mediate on it and ask the Lord to guide us.”
This incident turns out to be a beneficial occasion for everyone. This silence is unifying. Tom and Bella ask the Lord to help them find the answer for their son. Elias asks the Lord to help his parents find the answer for him. After a few minutes, Bella clears her throat and says:
“For me, we still need to continue witnessing for Christ even to those already know Him. Why? Because knowing Him has different levels. General knowledge of Him is not sufficient, but people have to apply it to their concrete situation every day.”
Elias does not seem to understand, saying, “Could you give me an example mom?”
“Sure, for example, Mr. Pete, our neighbor already knows the Lord. But recently he has been quite distressed because of his daughter’s serious sickness. We need to help him experience the presence of the risen Lord through our consolation and sharing.”
“Oh yeah, I got it,” Elias shows his intelligence, “I also need to encourage José in my class who got bad marks in his math test. I will help him study and tell him that the risen Lord is with him. Is it ok mom?”
Bella rubs her son’s head, proudly saying, “My son is excellent!”
Elias turns to his father, asking, “Dad, do you have an example?”
Tom answers right away, “Sure, of course! I have observed that our pastor has been very sad because of being misunderstood. He also needs to experience the presence of the risen Lord during this time. I plan to invite him to our home for a dinner. How do you think?”
Elias raises high his right hand, shouting with joy, “Done deal!”
Tom and Bella immediately join their son, “Done deal!”
The risen Lord is always there,
in the midst of life,
in our hearts,
but penetrating all the universe.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.