As we gather with family or friends to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, we have an opportunity to witness to our faith.
Perhaps this year you will have a chance to share with someone else the source of your joy or peace or confidence. But actually, the witness we most often give is in in the way we live during the very ordinary moments of our days. As St. Francis of Assisi once said, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary."
So, what better time to witness than when the whole family is all assembled—including crazy Aunt Marge, grumpy cousin Charlie, or your sibling’s annoying spouse. You might get to talk about what you are thankful for or what has given you joy this year. But sometimes, simple readiness to listen patiently to others while they talk about themselves can be a powerful witness. In those moments, what you don’t say might speak louder than you imagine. Your self-control and joy will be your witness and might well be what causes hope to well up in someone else, drawing them closer to the Lord.
Consider this testimony:
The truthful witness saves lives. (Proverbs 14:25)
I spent most of my twenties outside the Catholic Church and consequently outside of God’s grace. They were troubling years of searching and rebellion not too different from the experience of the younger son in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. While I was out there dabbling in things that could never bring me peace or put to rest the confusion in my soul, there were certain signs and experiences that stirred a remembrance within me of what I had left behind.
There was one particular sign that acted as a witness and a reminder that the Lord used to bring me back to him. It was the crucifix that I noticed some people wearing around their necks. For me, the crucifix was (and still is) a distinct witness to what Catholicism is all about, and it sets Catholics apart from their brothers and sisters of other Christian traditions, who usually wear a cross without the corpus.
The other sign was the witness of joy that many Catholics displayed. Joy is something you just can’t fake, and whenever I encountered a joyful person, it stirred something deep within me. I remember one woman in particular who was always open and accepting of me. She embodied the words of Fr. Henri Nouwen, who wrote in The Genesee Diary, “Real joy always wants to share. It belongs to the nature of joy to communicate itself to others and to invite others to take part in the gifts we have received.” What a beautiful way to live out our faith!
Most of us don’t think of ourselves as witnesses, but we are, and all the time. Only God knows how he will use our presence and willingness to be a witness. But sharing joy will not only help others; it can also increase the joy in our own hearts. You are walking in a truth that others desperately need, and that is a cause of great joy! How will you bear witness to them so that their lives can be changed and their souls can be saved—just like mine was?
Excerpted from Breaking into Joy: Meditations for Living in the Love of Christ, by Anne Costa (The Word Among Us Press, 2014).