Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent – The Testimony of Jesus Christ

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent – The Testimony of Jesus Christ

Gospel: John 5:31-47.

The Church has the “testimony of Jesus Christ”: so says the Book of Revelation, alluding to today’s gospel, and to the central theme of eyewitness testimony that runs through St. John’s writings. In recent years, philosophers have spilled a tremendous amount of ink trying to decide whether or not we can have rational grounds to believe something on the basis of the testimony of another. If I saw someone lugging a mattress down Broad Street, would I be justified in believing his claim that a wandering sage-like figure had just healed him from paraplegia (and forgiven his sins while he was at it)? Does not our faith simply rely on the same sort of testimony of others, given that we are not eyewitnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
The testimony of Jesus Christ, however, cannot be treated as one testimony alongside others. Christ does not simply testify to a cluster of facts and propositional truths beyond himself. Nor does he, like the prophets and preachers of yesterday and today, try to point to the presence of God in the world. Rather, Christ himself is that presence. As St Thomas wrote in his hymn Adoro Te Devote, “Truth himself speaks truly, or there’s nothing true”. Christ’s testimony is not exhausted by what he says and what he does, but these serve to testify to who he is: fully God and fully man, the Divine Word spoken from all eternity by the Father. By becoming man, God testifies to himself in human form: the saving revelation that Christ brings is inseparable from himself, and so that we might believe in this truth that go beyond the powers of our finite minds to apprehend, he sends the testimony of the Holy Spirit, to give us ‘eyes to see, and ears to hear’.

Perhaps, then, we ought to be less certain when it comes to claiming that we are not eyewitnesses. In receiving Christ in the Holy Eucharist, in having our sins forgiven in confession, in sharing our joys and sorrows with our brothers and sisters in Christ, in the love of man and wife, in our moments of grief and our mourning, does not Christ pass close by? In these moments when the grace of God shines light into darkness, bringing forth fruit from barren land, do we not witness something of a ‘mini-resurrection’, and in so-doing become first hand witnesses to the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ?

Oliver James Keenan OP

fr. Oliver is Master of Students of the English Province, teaches dogmatic theology at Blackfriars, Oxford, and has recently been appointed Director of the Aquinas Institute.