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Christian witness

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

Today’s gospel, Luke 24:35–48,  reminds us of what it means to be a witness to Christ. In order to be faithful witnesses, we must allow Jesus to do as He did to His disciples: open our minds “to understand the scriptures”.

How many of us truly open our minds to our scriptures and embrace what they tell us about how we should witness to Christ?

When Jesus appeared to the disciples and greeted them saying: “Peace be with you!…their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.” They were “in a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost” —even after He told them to touch Him and see for themselves.

Last year Pope Francis tweeted that this passage is one of his favourites: “‘Their (the disciples) joy kept them from believing’(v 41). To be filled with joy: It is not merely being happy, positive, but is something else. It is to be filled with consolation, filled with the Lord’s presence.”

And in 2014 he said: “The Gospel passage suggests that ‘the fear of joy is a Christian illness’… We too ‘are afraid of joy’ and we tell ourselves that ‘it is better to think: yes, God exists, but he is out there. Jesus is risen, he is out there!’. We tell ourselves: let’s keep ‘a little distance … we are afraid of Jesus’ closeness because this brings us joy’ …we need to overcome ‘the fear of joy’; we need to think of the many times that ‘we are not joyful because we are afraid’. Like the disciples who ‘were startled and frightened’ by the mystery of the Cross. This was the cause of their fear.”

The joy we experience in knowing that the Cross has led to our salvation, should motivate us to live as witnesses of the Resurrected Christ; to see Him in the faces of those whose human rights are being trampled upon daily.

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for April is: ‘For fundamental human rights’. He says: “Defending fundamental human rights demands courage and determination. I’m referring to actively combatting poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and housing, and the denial of social and labour rights. Often, in practice, fundamental human rights are not equal for all. There are first-, second-, and third-class people, and those who are disposable. No. They must be equal for all.

“In some places, defending people’s dignity can mean going to prison, even without a trial. Or it might mean slander. Every human being has the right to develop fully, and this fundamental right cannot be denied by any country. Let us pray for those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis, that they may see their sacrifice and their work bear abundant fruit.”

In June, Trinidad & Tobago will be reporting to the UN on the Status of Human Rights as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. T&T’s previous review was held on  May 10, 2016.

During that UPR session, T&T received 157 recommendations, 79 of which it supported. CCSJ has been involved in Civil Society Consultations for UPR sessions—2011, 2016, 2021, organised by the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, and have shared our views on areas in which T&T should take action to fulfil our human rights obligations.

In missioning the domestic Church, we must link human rights to the concept of integral ecology. Pope Francis tells us in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, everything is connected: “We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental…Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”

And consider paragraph 21 in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Populorum Progressio (On the development of Peoples). He said we need “to awaken in the People of God full awareness of their mission today. The development we speak of here cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man…This is what will guarantee man’s authentic development—his transition from less than human conditions to truly human ones.”

Reflect on the qualities required to be a faithful/effective witness to Christ. What’s hindering you?