The Work of the Witness


READ:  Luke 8:26-39

“Then Jesus and the disciples came to the region of the Gerasenes across the Galilee.  Jesus was stepping ashore from the boat when a man possessed with devils came racing up to Him.  This tormented man had been living for many years among the tombs and he went about naked. … (Jesus then frees the crazed man from his tormented mind.) … The people from the nearby town, hearing of this miracle, came out to see Jesus.  When they arrived, they found the tormented man in his right mind and fully clothed, sitting peacefully at the feet of Jesus as Jesus taught.  Seeing this dramatic change in this man, the crowds were awestruck.  Those who had witnessed what had happened gave an account to the late arrivals of how the man who had been possessed came to be saved. …   The man from whom the tormenting devils had gone out asked to be allowed to accompany Jesus in His ministry..  But Jesus, instead, sent the man away, saying,’Go back home and report all that God has done for you.’  So the man went off and proclaimed throughout the towns of that region all that Jesus had done for him.”
– Luke 8:26-27,35-6,38-39

Today I share with you this story of the wild man of the Gerasenes and with it, the story of a bird in the hand of a most compassionate soul, and as I do, I teach of our ministry of  Witness.

I tell you now of what I witnessed one sunny day in this June.  Brother John Mark, a young monk from Germany, Brother Paul, an elderly monk from Mississippi, Brother Angelus, a recent novice from Quebec, and my self, Brother Anthony of the Cross, were doing the chores of cleaning the interior of the chapel.    Dusted and polished the chairs and the pews and the altar furniture.  Wiped down the window sills and cleaned the many, many clear panes in the leaded windows that allow the sunlight … and I suppose, also the moonlight … into this old monastery chapel.  We swept the floors then mopped them with buckets filled with Spic-and-Span.

More than halfway through our work, we were startled by a loud thud that made the old, tall windows rattle.  Brother John Mark was the witness to this event … a bird had somehow flown at full speed into the clear glass window and then fell directly to the ground.  We left our chores to see if we might aid the poor bird.  There, outside the chapel, on the bare ground below the window, a little brown and white bird lay motionless on its side.  We hoped she was but stunned by the accident, but as we continued to observe her, she didn’t move.  We began to fear the worst.

witnessbirdIt was old Brother Paul, this white-haired, white-bearded monk, who had the blue eyes that were the color of the sky and who had a most gentle spirit that so spoke of this old man’s gentle holiness, who felt moved to offer care.  And now I share with you, my word of witness … Brother Paul walked over, knelt on one knee, and then placed that poor little bird in the palm of his hand.  Brother Paul looked as if he were whispering within himself as he petted the feathers on that sparrow.  He then stood up with out a word spoken, lifted his hand and the bird toward heaven and sky.  He held it there for the longest while … and then the bird chirped, then chirped again, then ruffled its feathers and spread its wings and took to flying.  All of our eyes followed the flight of that little bird as it went to a place beyond our sight, and then our eyes returned to the old man, Brother Paul, and the old monk was crying, yet also,the old monk was smiling.

My Loved Ones, that is what I witnessed one day in June here at Greyfriars’ Abbey.  And I believe, I really do, that I witnessed the power of Divine love being administered through the hands of a devout and tender old man.

In our daily confessional groups (our version of accountability groups), we ask each other a series of certain set questions.  One of those questions that we ask is this …”Where, this day, have you seen Christ at work?”    On that day, this is my witness, I saw a monk bring healing to a little brown and white bird who was in distress.  Back in the region of the Gerasenes way back when, some other people saw Christ bring peace to a tormented soul, and they told others what they saw that the Lord had done.

We, as Christian disciples, are called to be witnesses.  And just what is a Christian witness?  Many things, I suppose.  But, at the heart, it is merely giving the account of what the Lord has done in the living of our lives.  It is not preaching; it is not persuading; it is not converting; it is merely answering the question, “Where, in your days, have you seen Christ at work?”

I will never forget the day when old Brother Paul took a poor bird in his hand and the bird then flew away.


Brother Anthony of the Cross
(jim mcwhinnie)
— For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click …  … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).

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