When things are important to us, we document them. Each and every one of you probably has a birth certificate. Try to think about that. Where is it in your home? If you had to get your birth certificate, would you know where to find it? Each and every one of us has a birth certificate. When you were baptized, it was documented. You were given a certificate of baptism, and it was also written here in the parish records. We have a sacramental book of records, and we keep the record of anyone that has ever been baptized here. That record is kept here. If you have been baptized in another church, your record would be kept there wherever you were baptized and then all the sacraments after that. First Communion would also be documented. The date is documented in the record book. Confirmation is documented in the record book. If you are married, wherever you were married, it is documented here in the record book. I am documented at my home parish as being ordained a priest in the record book there. When things are important, we document them.
This is true for scripture as well. In the Hebrew scriptures in the Old Testament, things were documented that were important. So much so that Jesus could say, “That everything written about me in the law of Moses I will fulfill.” He is going to fulfill these things that were written and these things that were documented.
I was talking to a parishioner after Mass last week. He was asking me some questions. He said to me, “Father, sometimes I just wonder if this is all real. Like is it true?” He said, “Especially after we have had all this fake news this past year. Some are true and some are not true. You never know what is true. Would it not be the same 2000 years ago? How do you really know if it is true?”
I thought this was a great question. When Jesus came to them, they did not recognize Him at first. They thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” I thought about that parishioner. Why was he troubled, and why do questions arise in his heart? The truth is that we are troubled any time we doubt the experience of Christ. If you think about scripture, and you do not know that this is the truth, then what do we have? What is the truth? Ultimately, we know. We believe that Jesus came and said, “I am the way, and the truth and the light.” So, He is the truth.
Then you hear some people say, “Scriptures were not written right away when Jesus was living. They were written a hundred, or two hundred or three hundred years later.” Have any of you ever heard that before? That is not true by the way. I have heard that too and thought that was true from some of the different scripture scholars. It is one theory. I am going to read to you a couple of passages from the different Gospels where they say that they intended to document what had happened and what they have witnessed.
At the end of the Gospel today, Saint Luke says that Jesus says to the apostles, “You are witnesses of these things.” A witness is somebody that was actually there and saw what happened. Scripture is the documentation of people that were there, and they saw what happened. I want you to hear that. It was not written 300 years later by somebody who told somebody – who told somebody else. It was written by the people that were there that witnessed what happened. Saint Luke talks about the evidence of the Gospels and that they have primary eyewitnesses. We hear this throughout the first reading in the Gospel today.
We hear in Acts, written by Luke, “The author of life you put to death, of this we are witnesses.” So, Luke is writing Acts and says, we are witnesses. We saw Him put to death, and we saw His resurrection. We are witnesses and because it is important, we are documenting it. We are writing it down. Then we hear in today’s Gospel the same thing. “Thus, it is written that Christ would suffer and rise from the dead and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Jesus is saying that you are witnesses to these things. You are seeing what is happening and one day it is going to be preached all over the world. Every nation will hear about this, but you are firsthand witnesses. That is in Luke.
Just two more passages I want to read to you. This is from the beginning of Luke, and it starts off like this, “Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us.” Luke is saying that there are a lot of people trying to compile a narrative. Luke, who is a witness, says, “Just as those who are eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed it down to us, I too have decided after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you.” Listen to Luke say it. I too decided to write everything down in an orderly sequence for you. Does this sound as if it was something written down 300 years later or like hearsay? Luke is saying this is true. This is what we have witnessed, and I am writing it down. There are all kinds of other things. There are all kinds of other stories being told, but I am writing this down after investigating everything so that you can have the true story.
Then John, who is also a disciple of Jesus, writes this at the end of his Gospel. I love this one. He says, “It is to this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know the testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” John at the end of his Gospel is saying that he has written every single story that I could possibly fit here about the miracles of Jesus and everything you could possibly want to know about Him that I have witnessed. But, if I were to write everything about Him, all the miracles that He did, all the wonders that He did, the whole world could not contain it. I want to choose these images. I want to choose these stories. I want to choose these experiences that I saw and witnessed to testify to you the truth of Christ.
I hope that knowing that gives us just a little bit more trust in scripture. Scripture was written by people that witnessed what had happened. The other thing is that Jesus is a historical person. He actually existed. He was here 2,000 years ago, so it makes our faith and religion different than any other faith or any other religion because we worship somebody who was real and who became God. He was fully human and fully divine. He suffered, He died, and He rose.
So, if questions ever arise in your hearts, I think it is good to ponder these passages just to realize that these writings came from eyewitnesses. They had to see and experience Jesus, fully God, fully man in the flesh. So, our scripture, our Gospel, our testimonies are witnesses that are written down and documented so that we may believe.
The hope is also for each and every one of us to realize that not only did Jesus exist 2,000 years ago, He exists today. For each and every one of us – hopefully we have encountered Jesus, and we document or journal it. Some of our greatest saints have left us their journals of their experiences with the risen Christ. We are all called to have these encounters with Him. Our primary encounter is with Him today in the Eucharist when we receive Him in His Body and His Blood.
Hopefully, we have great peace of mind, so Jesus can say to us, “Why are you troubled and why do questions arise in your heart?” Hopefully, we can have great peace of mind that the scriptures can be trusted. Hopefully, we also have great peace of mind that we experience Him in the Eucharist. Hopefully, we have great peace of mind when we experience Him in our daily life. Hopefully, we experience Him through prayer so that we can experience Him as eyewitnesses, can testify that we know Him, and can say that we have experienced Him – and what is important is documented.