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Don’t do witness; be a witness


child_at_mass“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the world.’’ Acts 1:8
 
The act of sharing your faith, being a witness to Christ, can be difficult, a bit scary, and sometimes risky. Recently a young mother shared with me how she took that risk in a very natural and authentic way. Amy admits that her faith used to be more cultural than a personal faith in Christ. But she now has a living faith and tries to give her crazy, busy life over to God each day with intention and joy. Although it is a struggle with two very active preschool boys, she and her husband attend Mass weekly. She recently moved into a new neighborhood and joined the local parish. She mentioned this to a new neighbor, also a young mother. Her neighbor said that she, too, is a Catholic, but that it was difficult to take her small children to Mass. She told Amy that her family would eventually go to Mass once the children needed to go to religion class. Amy shared how much attending Mass strengthened her faith and their family, and how she managed her two young boys during Mass. “I bring Cheerios and a book,” she said, “and the boys are usually pretty good.” Their sharing continued, and then Amy said, “Why don’t you go with us next week? We can all sit together.” The woman replied, “Yes, okay, I would like that. I haven’t felt right about not going to Mass.”
 
Although sharing your faith can be difficult, it can also be natural, loving and fulfilling.
 
Studies reveal that the most effective way to share one’s faith is through meaningful relationships. More than 80 percent of unchurched people who come to faith in Christ said it was through the witness of a friend, neighbor, co-worker or a family member. Evangelization is simply sharing how God is real in our lives, how God loves, accompanies, and strengthens us on our life’s journey. We witness to Christ alive in us through our words and through the goodness of our lives.
 
We cannot change hearts, or give someone faith—faith is a gift that comes through God’s grace. But we can be God’s humble, gentle, and persistent instruments. Our faith sharing must be rooted in the joy and ongoing transformation that grows from a vibrant relationship with God and the love for the person to whom we give witness. Jesus invites us in Acts 1:8 not to do witnessing but to be witnesses by embodying the teaching of Christ to love one another especially the least among us.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.
 
Listen to Sr. Terry’s podcast of this blog.
 

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