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"Witness" and "Testify"

In the Acts of the Apostles, when questioned by the members of the Sanhedrin, the apostles proclaim: “We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” In the Gospel, Jesus states, “The one who comes from heaven testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.”

The words “witness” and “testify” carry a deeper meaning in Greek than they do in English. We usually think of witnesses testifying in a court of law. However, in Greek, one who claims to be a witness and one who testifies is required not only to know what they are talking about, they are also required to proclaim their knowledge to all who will listen. Witnesses not only testifies; they also repeat what they know or saw. Consequently, the apostles could not refrain from proclaiming their knowledge of Jesus any more than Jesus could refrain from revealing his knowledge of the Father. To be witnesses of the Resurrection means that they and we must proclaim our testimony. To refrain from doing so is tantamount to denying what we know to be true.

The evangelists Luke and John chose these words to heighten the sense of drama in the readings. Will the apostles bow to the power of the Sanhedrin to save their lives? The answer lies in the fact that Jesus did not refrain from proclaiming the love of God for him and his love for the Father. If Jesus was willing to die because of his testimony, then they too must be willing to die.

The Acts of the Apostles is a parallel work. If we go through this book and examine each action of the apostles, we will find that Jesus did the same thing in the Gospels. This is why the Acts of the Apostles is sometimes referred to as the fifth Gospel.

We are called to continue this process. We are called to live as witnesses of the great love of God, to proclaim it and repeat it as a truth that cannot be denied and cannot be silenced.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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