"'Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.'...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 of 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." - Pope Paul VI
One of my favorite quotes from John Paul II (I have to meet my quota to bring him up in nearly every blog post), is from when he was asked by a reporter why he was going to World Youth Day and he responded, "To greet the martyrs of the third millenium." 'Martyr' is a Greek word that means 'witness'. Normally when we speak of martyrs we do so in terms of someone shedding their blood for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. The words of Tertullian continue to echo, 'the blood of marytrs is the seed of Christians'. But what does that mean? An effective evangelist is not simply one who tells the Gospel story, but one who lives the Gospel - someone who tells the story by their very lives. The witness of someone willing to give everything for the sake of the Gospel, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, convicts the heart to conversion and transformation. It is the witness of a life changed by Jesus Christ, filled with the joy of the Spirit - a life that exudes the 'odor of sanctity' - that inspires us to want know to Jesus ourselves.
The world is in need of witnesses. Most of us will not be asked to shed our blood for the faith, but we will be asked to shed our pride, our selfishness, our disordered attachments, our jealousy, our sloth, our despair, our sin. God wants to place new hearts within us that we may be effective witnesses of his resurrection. By allowing ourselves to be loved by God, to be transformed by his grace, and letting that love overflow to the people we encounter each day with joy and generosity, we will become what John Paul II knew we could be: the martyrs of the third millenium; the witnesses of the New Evangelization.
Read the bishops' new document: Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization.