"Go and tell John what you hear and see." These are the words spoken by Jesus when John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one or should we look for another?" Jesus doesn't give them an oration. He doesn't provide them with a syllogism, a discourse, or some well-crafted talking points. He simply says, "Go and tell John what you hear and see." These words are so striking to me. Can it be that simple?
Twice a year, the Catholic students at Boston University go on retreat together. Although we always have great speakers come, what is always the most moving and memorable part of the retreat are the witness talks by the students themselves. They share how they have seen the Lord work in their own lives, how the Lord has spoken to them in their own lives. These witness talks are always an incredibly powerful testimony to what it means to be a Christian. Months and years after each retreat, nobody will recall anything that I ever said. But, the personal witness of the students is long remembered.
When I began this blog some years ago, I did so in order to share with others what I see and what I hear in my life as a priest. The experience of encountering Christ is not complete until we have shared with others what we ourselves have heard and seen. As St. John writes,
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life--the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and made manifest to us--that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete" (1JN 1:1-4).
On this Third Sunday of Advent, I share with you what I have seen and heard today. I do so that you may deepen your own fellowship with us and with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I share these quick sights and sounds because to do so also helps my joy to be more complete. Here is what I have heard and seen:
- Today as I looked out at Mass, I saw young 18-22 year olds who are in the midst of the stress of Final Exams, but who came to Mass to worship God.
- I heard the confessions on young men and women who are humbly trying to grow in holiness
- I saw young men and women from all over the world--different races, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds--all worshipping together
- I saw someone in the congregation who was not a Christian last Christmas, but who was baptized this past Easter.
- I saw someone who had been an atheist, but is now an active and joyful Catholic.
- I saw people at Mass who had not been practicing the Faith, but were now sitting next to the friend who encouraged and invited them to follow the Lord.
- I heard Catholic friends after Mass encouraging one another, laughing with one another, and loving one another.
- I see and I hear the missionary zeal and love of the young people here. I see their intense desire for others to share in their fellowship and to be close to the Lord.
- I see and hear young men and women who are in love with Jesus Christ and who love others enough to share their testimony.
- I see them making sandwiches and delivering them to those living on the streets of Boston.
- I hear them praying together, talking about serious things together, and participating in Bible Studies together.
To share the Faith, you don't need to be a theological expert. You don't need to be able to answer every single question about the Catholic Church with flawless precision. But, we can do two things. We can surround ourselves with people who are living the Catholic life, who are striving to become truly holy. And when we do this, we hear and see things that profoundly touch us and move us. These encounters--these sights and sounds--deepen our conviction about Jesus Christ and His Church. When we encounter these witnesses, we feel something in our heart that makes us say, "This is all true. I want this for my life."
John the Baptist was sitting in a dark cell. He couldn't see much in there, just the four walls. All he could hear was the party going on upstairs--the drinking, the music, the buffoonery--and perhaps he could hear the executioner sharpening his axe. Many people are sitting in darkness, feeling the weight of gloom, burdened by illness, by a sense of meaninglessness, emptiness, and doubt. They need a friend. They need someone who can share with them the joy of the Gospel.
Do you see what see what I see? Do you hear what I hear? Do you know what I know? If the answer is "No," that's because you are not surrounding yourself with Catholic friends and witnesses. If the answer is, "Yes," then there's only one more thing for you to do to make your joy complete: "Go and tell others what you hear and see."