Today, we celebrate World Communications Sunday. Next week, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. To prepare the Church to be witnesses of the gospel to the world, the liturgy of today gives us the prerequisites to be an apostle of our Lord and what it takes to proclaim the Good News. Indeed, it is becoming more and more difficult to proclaim the gospel of Christ, much less of Christ as the Universal Saviour of humanity. We face opposition from the world denying our claim and belief that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is not surprising because the Lord warned the disciples already. Jesus prayed to His Father, “I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them, because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world. I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”
In a world of secularism, materialism, individualism and relativism, it is difficult for anyone to claim that he or she has the truth. The world is either agnostic or relativistic to the question of truth. No wonder fake things or half-truth news are being circulated in the world, causing division and disunity. All lies cause misunderstanding and division in society and in the world. That is why even whilst we celebrate the advancement of science and technology in communications, whether in transport, digital or social communications, we are aware that havoc is wrecked in these areas because of distorted truths being passed around.
Indeed, if we are to proclaim Jesus as the Way to the Truth and to Life, we must first be consecrated in the truth. This is the priestly prayer of Jesus to the Father. “Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth.” Without being set apart in the truth, we cannot announce the Good News of freedom in love and truth.
Accordingly, the first condition of apostleship, as we read in Acts, is stipulated as one who was in the company of Jesus. “We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.” This is obvious. Unless we have walked with Jesus, we cannot be a witness to Him. That was why the first words of Jesus to His potential disciples were, “Come and see.” (Jn 1:39, 46) Walking with Jesus, being with Jesus, listening to Him and watching Him is the precondition for witnessing. A witness is one who testifies to what he has seen and heard.
The second criterion of apostleship is the recognition of Jesus as Lord and God. St John wrote, “We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.” Faith in Jesus as the personal presence of God is fundamental to Christian Faith. Jesus for us is nothing less than the Son of God. Only Jesus who knows the Father can reveal to us who God really is. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (Jn 1:18) Our faith in God is based on Jesus’ personal testimony. But this presupposes that we have faith in Him as the Son of God.
Thirdly, we must encounter God’s love and mercy before we can announce Jesus as the Good News. Because Jesus is the expression of God, we who see Jesus can appreciate God’s unconditional love and mercy for us through His ministry to the poor, the sick, the possessed, the outcasts, the marginalized and sinners. Most of all, by His death and resurrection, we are certain of God’s immense love for us. This must be the basis of our desire to tell others about Jesus. St John wrote, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”
Fourthly, to be able to love like Jesus, we cannot do it simply by imitating Him without the Holy Spirit. Without His grace and His love in us, through the Holy Spirit, we cannot do what He did. “We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.” This is why the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and at our baptism concludes the whole process of Christian initiation. A person is a full Christian when he receives the Sacrament of Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation. Only when confirmed in his or her faith and filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord and our Father, can the baptized Christian be a real witness to Christ in the power of the same Spirit.
Once we have the pre-requisites, we must proclaim the truth about Jesus. Truth is not so much an ideology. Truth is an event, an experience. This was what Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote in “God is Love” when he said, “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life’ (3:16).” (God is Love, 1)
That is why the proclamation of the gospel is not about words or doctrines primarily but about a person, Jesus Christ, who had worked wonders in our lives through His works of mercy and compassion and taught us about the Father’s love and forgiveness. The gospel is not a book but a person, Jesus, the Son of God who came to give us life to the fullest if we share in His life, love and live out the gospel. So it is Good News, not bad news. It is not about observing commandments, obeying some rules or performing some rituals. It is about the true meaning of love. This, precisely, is the exhortation of St John when he wrote, “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.” The best witness of the Good News is to lead someone to Jesus and to fall in love with Him by encountering His love, mercy, wisdom and truth through the Word of God.
Concretely, for us to witness to Jesus is to live a life of love and mercy. We begin with our inner circle, our loved ones, parents, siblings and friends. But charity must not stop here. We must reach out to the Christian community, society and the world at large. To be an apostle of Christ does not mean that we have to travel to the ends of the world but to witness His love and mercy according to the situation we are in. Of course, today with social and digital communication, we can share what Jesus has done for us even with those staying at the other end of the world. Space and time is no longer a constraint in communicating the Good News about this wonderful man whom we call Jesus, the Son of God.
Indeed, the Good News that we are called to share is to bring others into the joy we have because of Jesus in our lives. It is the joy of intimacy with the Lord in relationship, and the joy of being with the family of God, the body of Christ. Joy is attractive and appealing. This was what the Lord said, “But now I am coming to you and while still in the world I say these things to share my joy with them to the full.” What is the joy that Jesus shared with us? It is the joy of being in fellowship with His Father in the Spirit. Sharing in the Trinitarian life of communion and love is what makes us joyful. With the love and joy of God in our hearts, this love is poured out into others, and together as we share the joy of Christ, our love abounds.
Finally, we must live in such a way that we give glory to the name of God. Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us. While I was with them, I kept those you had given me true to your name.” If we call ourselves sons and daughters of God, we must live like Him and our lives must reflect the image and the person of God in all that we say and do. This is what it means to be true to His name and to become like Him. Indeed, if we do not live out our lives as true sons and daughters of God, then the tragedy of life is that we might end up like Judas who was lost. He too walked with Jesus and counted among the apostles and shared in their ministry. But he betrayed the Lord because of greed, pride and self-centeredness. We too must never walk alone in the faith. We must walk with our fellow Catholics so that, one with each other and one with Jesus, we can overcome all trials and temptations of life and the hostilities of the world.