Only a witness

He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light. ~ John 1.8

On Christmas Eve I tweeted the link to a Christmas reflection by Paul O'Reilly SJ, commenting that it was very sad, and very lovely, and very real. The reflection related the story of a woman in a hospice, dying miserably alone, friendless and unloved - except for the hospice staff. And it recounted how 'a tiny little nun' came in, held her hand and prayed for several minutes. Paul spoke of her being Christ to the dying woman; speaking his words, touching her with Christ's hands... but then added: She was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.

I thought of those words two days later, when I read about Archbishop Desmond Tutu's death, and the many tributes paid to his courage, compassion, humour and conviction. Justin Welby said: In Desmond Tutu’s eyes, we saw Jesus’ love. In his voice, we heard Jesus’ compassion. In his laughter, we heard Jesus’ joy. It was beautiful and brave. His greatest love is now realised as he meets his Lord face to face... And yet, we know that Tutu would have been the first to say that he was by no means the light, only a witness to speak for the light. 

But oh, what a witness...!

Today we celebrate St Thomas of Canterbury, whose life - and especially death - witnessed to the light. And woven throughout our liturgies at this time is John the Baptist, who, whether in the womb or the wilderness, or by the Jordan, lived the truth and the mission of those words. And what about us...? How is God calling each one of us to be Christ's hands and heart and voice... to be, not the light, but witnesses whose lives speak, constantly, for the light...?