Image: Blessing of the Children, Behchoko
One of the surprises I received when I moved to the north was just how open people are with their spirituality and that it is not taboo to talk about God in the public sphere or in ordinary conversation.
One example I can remember was attending my first town hall meeting in Inuvik and was asked spontaneously by the mayor to open the proceedings with a prayer. It might not seem like a big deal, but I had just come from a city in the south where the debate was raging over whether it should be permissible to allow a public bus to display the greeting “Merry Christmas” during the holidays. In that climate you can imagine that public prayer was not looked upon with much favor.
Many of the people I meet are also wonderfully comfortable in talking about God and their relationship with Him. It might be good things they are experiencing or maybe they are going through some hard times, but they are quick to acknowledge that God’s hand is at work in their lives. It is real gift to be able to share these thoughts and feelings with others and should not be taken for granted.
Our readings today talk about what happens when that spiritual voice inside us is silenced. In the first reading the apostles are brought before the authorities and told they can no longer preach about the risen Christ as they are deemed to be disturbing the peace. In fact, all they are disturbing is the consciences of those who stood guilty of sentencing an innocent man to crucifixion.
The apostles’ response to the censure was defiance. They put their freedom on the line by boldly stating that God’s word could not be silenced. They would not submit to human authority where it was unjustly used to keep them from sharing the Gospel and all that they had experienced since Jesus had been raised from the dead.
Our Gospel reading also invites us to a similar response as we read,
“He who comes from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard, even if his testimony is not accepted.”
It is our mission as disciples to share our faith. Our beliefs about God are not just a private matter because the message is meant for the whole world not just ourselves.
How we share that message is important. The apostles created enemies by their challenging words before the authorities. Sometimes that kind of confrontation is necessary, but fundamentally God’s word is Good News as we read in the Psalm,
“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save. Many are the trials of the just man but from them all the Lord will rescue him.”
This is the kind of message that people need hear, not judgment or condemnation from us.
We also remember that when sharing our faith with others we will be judged not just by what we say but also by whether we live according to our word. We are witnesses to the Gospel by both what we say and what we do.
It is also important before we speak, that we know what God wants us to say so we must be prayerful. The apostles were clear in their testimony that the words they were sharing were not their own but came to them through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Our faith is tremendous gift and it will grow in us as we share it with others.