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“I Have Seen and So Can Testify To…”

by | Aug 3, 2016 | Formation, Reflections

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“I have seen and so can testify to…”                  (John 20)      

So much of the New Testament is about witnessing.  “We have seen and testified to…the Eternal life that was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard.” (1 John 1:1-2) In one way or other, every one of its witnesses is giving off that same message, “This is the good that’s happened to me in Christ Jesus. And I’m here to tell you about it.”

No one proclaims it more directly than Mary Magdalene.  Fresh from having her eyes opened to recognize who the Gardener really was, on-the-run she takes her testimony to the disciples, “I have seen The Lord.” (Jn. 20:18). And they witness right back to her, “Some of us too have seen The Lord.”

That impulse (and command) to “give testimony” has been handed on to every generation — but it’s never been all that easy to do. And that is because on the one hand those exact words to proclaim the experience can feel awkward: if someone were to come up to me and shout “I have seen The Lord,” my first thought would be that he was off his meds. And on the other, most believers would admit some unsureness about actually having “seen The Lord” to whom they could testify.

It might be helpful to do some transposing of both experience and language so as feel more comfortable in taking on Mary Magdalene’s words. The experience here is that sense of God being present in life, that certain pull felt on the inside that you know came from the outside. It’s the experience of something invisible that nonetheless you’ve perceived as visible and come to know as real and trustworthy. What are words to say those kinds of things?

A transposition I suggest is to the imagery of the shepherd, specifically that Good Shepherd who appears in both Old and New Testaments.  What does a good shepherd do? And what might you yourself have done?

The shepherd prods. He pushes the sheep out of the comfort of the sheepfold, prods them out beyond the safety of the gate. Have you felt hesitant to do something uncomfortable for the good of another, but did it anyhow because you knew it was right? Have you felt and responded to the prod?

The shepherd shelters. She protects the sheep from the wolves. Have there been times in your life in which you “just made it through” — and looking back realized that you could not have done it on your own? Have there been those times you felt sheltered by something/one out beyond yourself, when you sensed some “protection” that you knew you didn’t give yourself? Have you experienced such sheltering?

The shepherd gathers. He pulls together the scattered sheep who have lost all sense of direction. Have there been periods when your life seemed “all over the place,” when your inner compass seemed to be pointing in all four directions at once – and then somehow rediscovered your own north star? Have you sensed that kind of guidance?

From such life experiences and others, can you “testify” to times and places in which you’ve been shepherded? Can you give witness to these kinds of happenings, these barely discernable prods, nudges and summons from the Good Shepherd that came to you in life?

Still more, while working inside the Vincentian family, can you recall similar reverse experiences? That is, those times when you yourself have given shelter to someone needing protection, have prodded others to risk leaving the safe gates of their home-spaces to serve a wider world, or have helped a family beat back some chaos that was threatening to break it apart?  And you caught the effect it had on them? There too, did you sense the hand of The Good Shepherd moving through and settling things?

If you can recall any such things happening to you or seen it in the people you’ve helped, you’ve “got the credentials,” as it were, to give that witness. If you can remember back to those below-the-surface movements inside your experiences, you too are in a position to proclaim your own, “I’ve seen the Lord.” You can testify to what you’ve seen and heard and tasted.

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