Pope John Paul II’s autobiography is called Witness to Hope. What does that phrase mean, “witness to hope”?
Some friends of mine evangelize out in public. They have some big signs, even a speaker and a mike, and they set up in a spot in downtown Boston or Cambridge and hand out “tracts” and fliers. Most people think they are either zealous or nuts. Most are shocked to find out they are Catholic. But there are always people who they reach in a profound way.
I was out with them recently, talking with my friend Jim. Jim is almost 50 years old, and has been out on the street evangelizing like that for almost 20 years. In the middle of our conversation, a young man walked up to us, and asked a question about the big sign Jim was holding, about God. He was in his early 20’s, he looked messy, he had dark shades covering his eyes, and he was sarcastic and full of skepticism.
He questioned whether there was really a God. He questioned whether there really was death. “Woah, he is really lost,” I’m thinking. After we tried to answer his questions, he said, “I’m a vet. I’m also an alcoholic. In fact, I’m drunk right now.”
Just then, Jim said, “Before God got me, I was an alcoholic too, in the Navy. I used to drink so much that I couldn’t get up in the morning. I used to miss shifts, and I was always on the outs. Twice I was almost thrown out of the Navy. I know what it’s like.” And he went on like that for a few minutes, telling stories of his alcoholism in the Navy.
And then he said, “But don’t lose hope. Always have hope.”
The young man said to him, “You just gave me hope. I’m going to cry.”
He took a tract and a flier and walked away with tears in his eyes – and with hope.
Everything is redeemable with the Lord. When we give ourselves to Him, all of our “past” becomes useful, especially the sins and failures. In His hands, our sins and failures make us a witness.
“For you shall be his witness to all men, of those things which you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:15)
A witness to hope.
2 thoughts on “Become A Witness to Hope”
This is a wonderful explanation and example of what “witness to hope” means. God is so good to us, not only forgiving our past sins and failures, but turning them into something useful.
Thanks again, Gabrielle. It reminds me that God redeems everything, nothing is left out, if we let Him. Everything then can have a purpose in His plan of salvation … Our Lady has taught me this.
It reminds me of the story of Judith and David and so many of the Psalms where God uses the enemy’s own weapon to defeat him. In fact, St. John Chrysostom writes about this in describing the cross in the Office of Readings for the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin on Saturday, which I had happened to read this Saturday: “Now let me tell you something even more remarkable, the manner in which he gained his victory, and you will marvel all the more. Christ conquered the devil using the same means and the same weapons that the devil used to win.”
When I was at the March for Life Mass in DC last spring, I understood this about the music. It was almost rock music, with a punk-rock kid playing the guitar. I have been on the fence about that music in the Mass, but then I realized I was witnessing the cross. The very weapon that the enemy had used to scatter youth – rock music – was now being used by the Lord to bring youth back to him. I thought, “I’m looking at the cross.”