Monday, July 9, 2012

Being a witness

     We are often presented with the example of a great crowd of witnesses to remind us of our responsibilities and to give direction to the journey that we find ourselves on.  Today, for example, in the calendar of the Church we honor 120 martyrs who died in China from 1648 through 1930, led by Father Augustine Zhao Rong.  Eighty-seven were born in China and were ordinary people who lived extraordinary and heroic lives.  Thirty-three were foreign missionary men and women religious who gave their lives serving the Lord and the Gospel message.  They were canonized as a group by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.

     Yesterday we heard from Ezekiel the prophet of how he sought to avoid the job being given to him by God.  He said that the Spirit of God picked him up and set him on his feet and then commanded him to go forth and call the People of God to task for their negligence.  He did not relish the task.  We learn that Jesus was not welcomed, was not accepted in his home town, in his native place.  In fact, he was resented ... for bringing healing and the message of love from his father.  And Paul, who did relish bearing witness to the truth entrusted to him, found that the Lord gave him his "thorn in the flesh" that would keep him humble and not arrogant with pride.

     I mentioned in my homily yesterday that my dad was a policeman in our home town of Uniontown, and that one of his jobs was to be in charge of the school safety patrol programs.  That included showing periodic "safety movies" in all the schools in town.  Along with the movies he also showed some cartoons (Woody-Woodpecker, usually).  We always enjoyed his visit - not because of the safety movies, but because of getting out of class and the cartoons.  But we learned, from a man in a position of authority but with a gentle disposition, rules to live by.  He was a good witness.

     I also mentioned my sister, Janie, who works in retail in a department store in town.  Recently placed in an associate managers position she has had to remind a few of the associates of the dress code of the company, or that they are not permitted to text while on the job.  My sister is not power hungry, and I'm sure she pointed out these things rather than reprimand the individuals.  Yet she does not relish being the bad guy (who does).

     In most dioceses the Vicar General is usually the "enforcer" of the policies or the "hatchet man" in bad situations.  I recounted that we have had men in that position who would beat you up in your infractions of the policies but we also had men who would remind you, with respect for who you are and for our human frailty, of what needs done.  There is a world of difference in those approaches.

     We are all called to be witnesses, to bring a prophetic word to situations, to inspire people to change or repent.  We may not always relish the job, but we are given the grace, grace that is sufficient, to accomplish the task.

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