You are Witnesses of these Things

May 8, 2016

We are witnesses.  We have seen the glory of God and we know how to call upon Him.  To give witness to these things we must first recall all the Lord God has done for us.  We are witnesses to amazing grace.  So often we think of witnesses testifying to what they see.  But when we are called to be witnesses in the faith, we are called to give testimony to what is in our hearts.  That is where grace resides.  It is where we can recapture the amazing within the grace.

As I left for seminary for the first time while I was starting my junior year in college, I can remember a wise monsignor, Monsignor John Farrell, coming up to me and saying, “Where else can you go and see the magnificence of God?”  As I toiled with studies and began to find a groove, I watched as bright young men left seminary to pursue other vocations. I also saw others lose their zeal for the mysteries.  Before each year of studies, I would ask the monsignor for his blessing. He would always remind me that there were many reasons to leave the seminary, but only one reason to stay—the reality of the love Jesus has for us.  He was a wise and great priest, and the pastor at my home parish of St. Leonard’s in Berwyn.

He was right.  By seeing with my heart I could experience and witness the amazing events of grace revealed.  My eyesight is not the best.  In my lifetime I have received corneal transplants in both eyes. As my sight deteriorated, I needed new ways to see.  My ears became a part of the journey.  My heart became an even greater part.  The magnificence of God’s grace is that it transforms lives.  It redeems the sinner and holds those who are searching and afraid.  I am blessed to see faith come alive in the lives of the parishioners who I am called to serve.  I am humbled by God when I am invited to listen to the pain that is the world’s tragedies and know that the loving God of creation will never abandon us.  Experiences like this in the parish build up my faith and I bring it to the Real Presence of Jesus found in the Eucharist. He renews it, strengthens it, and fills my soul with grace that is amazing.  I am blessed to experience all of this because of the call God placed in my heart so many years ago.  Before ordination, when I was diagnosed with Keratoconus, a deterioration of the cornea, I felt that I was unworthy to follow this call.  I let the Diocese know of this medical complication which was now mine.  With great relief, they looked at me with wonder as to why would I be worried about such a thing.  They related that everyone has medical issues of some sort, some are just more pronounced than the others.  Witnessing took on a new light.  I was being accepted just as I was, not as something I thought I needed to be.

Witnessing with our hearts begins with being who we are.  It is a realization that broken vessels are used by God to witness to our love for a Savior and our need to see the grace, that is not ours, shine forth in ways beyond our imagination.  For me, witnessing started by knowing my limitations.  When I embraced them, I could see more clearly what was taking place around me.

God calls us to be witnesses.  God calls us to see a grace that is amazing.  May it find us in all of the unsuspecting ways God intended.

Rev. John J. Ouper