A number of years ago I was invited to give a retreat to a group of lay people in New York City. A seminarian graciously accompanied me in order to help with the practical details. Prior to the evening retreat, we had a number of appointments, and so that meant that we would have lunch in New York. The seminarian really enjoyed Asian cuisine, so I accommodated his palate by inviting him to lunch at a Korean restaurant.
As we went to our table, we were met by a Korean woman who graciously attended us with delicate courtesy. Having had many years of experience at my father’s restaurant, I was able to notice that her kindness, manners, and spirit of service were far from ordinary.
Towards the end of the meal, another Korean woman finished waiting on our table. When we were ready, I asked her for the check. She then proceeded to tell me that there would be no charge for the lunch because the first waitress took care of the bill. I was very surprised and I asked her why she had decided to pay for our meal. “She is Christian”, was the unanticipated answer from the waitress.
“She is Christian”, meant that all the other waitresses were not Christian, and that all though encountering a free meal in the middle of downtown New York City surprised me, they were not surprised at all. They knew that this woman was different. Because of her Christianity, she was different.
This is just one example of what it means to be a witness. The Korean woman, through her profound generosity, gave an amazing witness to all of her co-workers. She is Christian.
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost was a feast day for the Jewish people. On this day, many Jews were known to have made a special pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. At first, the feast was celebrated as a day of thanksgiving for the harvest, and subsequently it also became a commemoration of the Ten Commandments that were given by God to Moses. Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after the Passover.
Jesus’ return to his Father makes it possible for God to come to us in a way more active and more powerful than before. Only the second person of the Blessed Trinity became incarnate. Thus everyone was able to see Jesus. However, the Holy Spirit can only be experienced by those who are believers. Jesus now lives and rules through the Catholic Church, which the Holy Spirit brings to life. From the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ brings every believer to a new existence, to deeper intimacy, and directs our deeds and our journey to eternal life.
At an important point in the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, a missionary gave him a book that contained the four Gospels. This of course, was the Indian leader’s first exposure to Christianity. He read the Gospels with great interest, and was convinced that the principles taught by Jesus could resolve all of the political, social and economic problems of his country.
Gandhi had to travel throughout Western Europe in order to muster support for an independent India. Traveling through Christian countries, he was dismayed only to conclude that the Gospels are wonderful indeed, but he did not see anyone living their teaching. For this reason, Gandhi never converted to Christianity.
We are in dire need of men and women who will evangelize a difficult world by the witness of their lives. We all need the deep, unyielding convictions of the heroes of the civil rights movement such as Dr. Martin Luther King and the un-sung heroes of the pro-life movement who have been imprisoned in order to save the lives of millions of unborn children.
Now more than ever, the world needs an authentic, mature and coherent Christianity lived by Christians who are living witnesses of the Gospel. Come Holy Spirit!