6th Week of Easter, Monday, May 10
Acts 16:13-15 / John 15:26 - 16:4
Jesus instructs his disciples; "You must bear witness on my behalf. "
A witness is someone who can say, "1 know what I am talking about from personal experience." Thus, Christian witness involves two things:
(1) a burning internal conviction about Jesus and (2) a convincing external expression of this conviction. The more burning the internal conviction, the more convincing the external expression. And how does one's conviction about Jesus begin and develop? The answer is, "By a personal experience of Jesus." And how does this come about? It comes about by opening our heart to Jesus and letting him fill it with his risen presence.
The world-conquering Paul brought the Church to Europe through Macedonia, from where Alexander, nearly four hundred years before, had set out to conquer the world. The first convert welcomed him on this historic occasion. That convert which Paul made in Europe, was a woman: Lydia. There was no synagogue in Philippi. The Jews gathered on a sabbath at a place near the river. When Paul came there, there only a few women, among them Lydia. She was a seller of purple, a dye that is obtained drop by drop from a Mediterranean snail. As a result of this, she was a wealthy woman. She had a grand house in Philippi. Luke here has a lovely expression in "The Lord opened her heart" (verse 14). God alone has the key to a human heart, he fills it with joy. She was a God-fearing woman, not a Jewess nor a proselyte, but one who was attracted to the religion that believed in one God and demanded a high moral standard. She was hospitable, she invited t/le Apostles to stay and have the Church at her place. "She would take no refusal" (verse 15). She was not accustomed to take 'No' for an answer. She was fearless. After Paul ran into trouble with the authorities and a section oft/le rich, and he' and Silas were jailed, she urged them to come back and stay with her. They did.
What are we doing to open our heart to Jesus' risen presence? "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house." Rev 3:20
Two weeks from now to Pentecost, our attention is focused on the Spirit. Either the readings or the prayers, or both speak of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was the faithful witness of the Father who showed us, in terms understandable for people, what God is like, but it cost him his life. Through his Spirit, he will make his apostles witnesses too. They have seen, so they MUST speak. They believe, so they MUST speak and act. The Spirit will make them afraid of nothing and nobody. Every Christian is called to be such a witness.
We are called to be witnesses for Christ in two ways: by our word, by our suffering. The word 'witness' in Greek is: martyrs. As we use the word today, it expresses only the second meaning of witnessing, giving our life for Christ. The qualification of a witness is that he knows the truth, is convinced of it, and wants to tell the truth. For this we have an advocate who prepares us and assists us: The Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of Truth. He will lead us into all the truth. Hatred and persecution would be a terrifying experience to the disciples. They had all been faithful Jews. To be expelled from the synagogue would have been unbearable. To soften this experience Jesus speaks to them plainly. Even today an article against us in the paper, or a morcha (a protest march), or to be branded anti-national hurts, although we have been often warned that this will he our fate. Do we remember what he told us?
Lord, our God, if we really believe in you and in your Son, we cannot be but witnesses. Send us your Spirit of strength, that we may give no flimsy excuses for not standing up for you and for the love and rights of our neighbour. Make us only afraid of betraying you and people and of being afraid to bear witness. We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen