‘We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,’ wrote Paul (1 Corinthians 1:23). What we as Christians proclaim is an event that has taken place, not a religious system or simply a ‘message’. The New Testament is neither a collection of thoughtful essays nor an attempt to construct a system of ethics. “It bears witness to a unique history, and it discovers the truth in the history.” Paul once tried the way of sweet reason (Acts 17), but people only laughed at him. It may have been at that moment that he found his own voice. From that point on, he would proclaim “Christ and him crucified,” the event that was the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is why eyewitnesses and testimony are crucial. In the first reading, we see how Lydia, a rich businesswoman moved by the message of the “Christ and him Crucified”, witnessed by Paul, accommodates Paul and missionaries on their first trip to Europe. It is interesting to note that the first house-church in Europe was presided over by a woman.
“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi. Philosophical arguments and theories, while they may propose faith to us, can never bring us there. A wide streak of rationalism in theology can alienate many and box up the faith in a suffocating system. The faith is not plausible, and any account of it that makes it so is throwing away the kernel of it. There is nothing plausible about existence, or the world, or God, or the Incarnation, or the death of Jesus, or his resurrection…. What we proclaim is not a plausible account of life, a ‘philosophy for the millions,’ made palatable by striking images and stories, but a series of extraordinary events: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
“You are witnesses of these things,” said Jesus (Luke 28:48). This was spoken to “the eleven and their companions.” But ultimately, it is spoken to every disciple. We are to witness what the Spirit, the ‘Advocate’, has witnessed to us in our hearts and in our lives, among the community of believers. We are to speak from experience.
Giltus Mathias CP, is a Passionists, he lives at St.Brigid Retreat, Marrickville.