The vision of Emmaus Journey is to help Catholics grow in their understanding and commitment to sacred Scripture and Church teachings, and to fan into flame people’s commitment to prayer and evangelization. Emmaus Journey contributes to these goals by providing ministry and formation resources, and leadership training for parishes, small-groups, and individuals.
Rich Cleveland's picture

A Compelling Witness

In one of Aesop's fables an old Mother Crab says to her son, "Why do you walk sideways like that my son? You ought to walk straight." The little crab responded, "Show me how, dear Mother, and I'll follow your example." Though Mother Crab tried in vain to walk straight she could only move sideways. She quickly saw how unreasonable was her advice to her son. The moral of the fable is obvious, it is easier to tell, than to do, and an example is more authoritative than is a lesson.

Jesus came teaching with authority as we see within the Gospels. He advanced his ministry by being the Master Teacher. Jesus communicated truth in simple but powerful word pictures and parables, and then reinforced his teachings by using miraculous power to heal and to do good. Intertwined throughout, he lived an exemplary life responding to lepers, tax collectors, prostitiutes, and his dearest friends with the same consistent love and righteousness. Jesus' teaching authority did not come from utilizing the latest teaching techniques, or by practicing recommended communication skills. His authority came from within, from who he was, Emmanuel, God with us, and from the truth he taught—the very Truth of God. 

Not many of us are called to publicly teach, speaking for God on his behalf. Perhaps that is fortunate. But like the old Mother Crab mentioned by Aesop in his fable, we spend a lifetime teaching character and values of one kind or another. We do this not primarily by what we say, but most certainly by how we live. Usually our example speaks so loudly, that others cannot hear what we are saying. What an awesome responsibility is then laid at our feet; to communicate Truth by our lives. Jesus is attempting to authoritatively communicate to those around you the truth and love of God, and he has chosen you to be his simple but powerful word picture. You have been chosen to be his living parable, and invited to be a living icon of Jesus Christ. The purpose of an icon, as C. S. Lewis explains, "is not to fix attention upon itself, but to stimulate and liberate certain activities ... in the worshipper." This is the role of an example; to authoritatively focus people's attention on the Lord of our life, so that they in turn can be freed to worship him. What an awesome invitation is given us to illustrate his message of grace and love.

Pope Paul VI explains it this way, "... for the Church the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, 'Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.' St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness to fidelity to the Lord Jesus—the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity." (From Evangelization in the Modern World by Pope Paul VI, paragraph 94.) Our lives of chastity, reverence, sanctity and obedience to Jesus empowers and brings authority to the Church's message of Jesus and his Kingdom.


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