In the olden days, (and this time I don’t mean when I was young) but way, way back when Jesus walked the earth and time changed from B.C. to A.D., communication was markedly different.  There were no iPads, cell phones, televisions, telephones, postmen, printing presses – rather news was spread by word of mouth and rudimentary “books” and “letters,” seriously limited by the lack of paper.

Jesus taught his disciples, accompanying his teachings with signs and wonders.  He died on the cross, and rose again.  (Quite a wonder in itself.)   After his followers were filled with the Holy Spirit, they travelled about  and did what Jesus had done.  All the apostles but one  were martyred.   How, then, did these few, in the absence of television and printing press,  change the Roman Empire into what became known as Christendom?

The answer:  Through their personal testimony!

It is no different today.   True, news spreads much faster, with an instantaneous tweet or post, and  live video circling the globe in no time.   Still it is in the telling – “this is what I saw” – “this is what happened to me” – “this is how God worked in my life” – that the Christian faith is spread. The apostles knew Jesus personally.   They knew Jesus had been crucified, had risen from the dead and had walked among them.   There was power in their testimony!

In my lifetime I dare say I have read or heard hundreds and hundreds of testimonies.  They are all different and they are all the same.  They all tell about the difference that Jesus has made in  their lives.  And I believe them.   Why?  Does it seem reasonable to think that these people who are trying the follow the ten commandments, who are trying to love their neighbor as themselves, who seem to be living upright lives (for the most part!)  are ALL lying?  They have been remarkably changed —  they have done remarkable things — and they all claim it was because of Jesus.

Is a not a wonder that Mother Angelica, a contemplative nun, should have started an international television network that is still broadcasting worldwide  although she is now 88 years old?  Is it not remarkable that Pat Robertson, with a wife and children and $27, should have bought the TV station that has become the Christian Broadcasting Network?  And started Regent University?  And helping millions of needy people worldwide with Operation Blessing?

I recently read a book, Spirit Driven Success, by Dani Johnson.  She says she had been living in her car until one day, at the beach, walking in the water, she heard a voice say, “Pick up your mat and follow me.”  She picked up her beach towel, followed God, and two years later was a millionaire – preaching the good news of the gospel.

In my car I sometimes listen to CDs of  Christian testimonies.  Mary Vogrinc was a housewife, mother of five, and foster mother of 54 children, who travelled about talking about her journey as a Catholic mother.  On one such plane trip she chanced to sit next to a man who said he was from Turkey but travelled a lot.    She thought his eyes looked lost, he asked her to tell him about Jesus.   A few days later  she saw his photo in the newspaper and realized she had been sitting next to one of the 9/11 hijackers who caused the plane crash in Pennsylvania.  Mary’s plea:  Never pass up a chance to tell what Jesus has done for you.

Another such CD told the story of an American soccer player  who played professionally in Brazil for a while.  He was praying about what he felt was a call to the priesthood.  Back in the States, in a strange city, he stopped into a church to pray.  Across the front of the church was a banner which he could read because of his time in Brazil.  It said, in Portuguese,  “I will make you fishers of men.”

Such stories are multiplied over and over again.  All of these people think trying to follow God  has made a big difference in their lives.   Some have done remarkable things.  Many have experienced odd “coincidences.”  Some have died for their faith.  Are they all crazy?  They seem pretty normal except for their changed  lives which they attribute to following Jesus.  It has been said that people will not sacrifice their lives  because of  a story they have heard,  but they will sacrifice their lives because of an experience they have had.

What accounts for the power of testimonies?  It is, first of all,  the character of the people who tell them.  These are believable people.  It is hard to think they are either crazy or lying.   Secondly,  I think the Holy Spirit kicks in and witnesses to the truth of what they are hearing.

The people of God are commanded to go forth and spread the good news of the gospel.   “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.'”  Matt. 16:15.”    WE are God’s letters to the world.   Others are to read us and believe.

As St. Francis of Assisi said:   “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

 

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“Be always ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you but with respect and gentleness” 1 Peter 3:15

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me, –
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
……………..Emily Dickinson