"And you too shall be my witnesses." These are words that stand out in this passage. They challenge and edify us in the same phrase. The promise from Jesus that the Spirit shall come and make us understand the truth of who Jesus is and that knowing this truth we shall proclaim the reality of his person, is a great promise and ideal for us to try to live up too. The Church in her wisdom, brings us on a yearly basis through the life of the Lord. We are coming now to the Ascension and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. We are thinking now of the coming of the power in God in our lives to change and be changed, to know and be known, to go out and proclaim. Such is the call of Jesus. We cannot be indifferent to it.
Bearing witness! This is what changed the religious principle of the Roman Empire. It began with Christ bearing witness before Pontius Pilate. On that occasion, so full of significance, our Lord explained his mission before the world as represented by Pilate. His mission was to bear witness. For this was I born, to bear witness to the truth. All who are of the truth, listen to my voice (John 18:37). He had told his disciples the night before that he was the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). But now, there was Another, high and beautiful, who was working in him who was the Truth, in him who was the master Witness. I refer to the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. Christ’s own mission was to bear witness to the Truth, and those who believe in him share in his mission of bearing witness to the Truth, but behind Him and them there is the action of the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Truth is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. Those who believe in Jesus and who follow him have been granted by their faith and baptism a share in the Spirit of Christ, that Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth. He it is who enables us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bearing witness to the Truth of Jesus. The religion of the Empire changed because witness was borne to the truth of Jesus, and this was due to the action of the Spirit of Truth. In our Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples that “ When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-16:4a). The Spirit of Truth, the Truth that is Jesus, is sent by Jesus to us from the Father. It is from the Father, through the Son, that the Spirit of Truth proceeds. He sustained Jesus Christ as he bore witness to himself before the children of Israel, and then, in a different manner and to a different degree, before the Empire. He sustains us all as we endeavour to bear witness to Jesus before the people of our day. Let us understand clearly that the world depends on our witness, and that the world can be changed by our witness, just as it was changed in the days of the mighty Roman Empire.
There was no greater phenomenon at the time of Jesus Christ than the Roman Empire. It lasted centuries upon centuries. It, though, was conquered by Jesus Christ, and when the Empire fell before the barbarians, Jesus Christ conquered them — and thus Christian Rome gave way to Christian Europe. But it all depended on bearing witness. This, though, depends totally on the action and the grace of the Spirit of Truth through whom Christ bore witness, and by means of whose aid we all of us are enabled to bear effective witness. The world depends on our living a life of witness to the Truth of Jesus. Let us then depend on our divine Counsellor, Friend and Guide.