In “You Will Be My Witnesses”, John
Dear calls to the reader’s attention the Gospel mandate of love. Jesus
tells his disciples that they will be His witnesses; we will be His witnesses. Dear’s
book highlights some people he believes resembles this type of witness.
In each of these short biographies, Dear focuses
on how each of these witnesses responds to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. They
respond the mandate love God above all else and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, one’s neighbor including one’s
enemy. They respond to God’s call of service. They respond to Jesus’ peaceful resistance to evil. They
each do this in different ways.
Dear mentions a wide array of people in this
compilation of biographies. He mentions people from Mary, the mother of Christ,
who was the first witness to Christ, to Mansur al-Hallaj, a very controversial Muslim.
The witnesses mentioned are from bible times such as John the Baptist as well as more recent witnesses such as Mychal
Judge. They all had in common their living out the Gospel through their love,
their service, and their peaceful resistance to evil.
These witnesses mentioned by Dear showed their
love in many different ways. Franciscan Father Mychal Judge showed his love through
his actions in being a chaplain at the New York City Fire Department. Andrew
was the first disciple called by Jesus. He showed his love by “preach[ing]
the Gospel and [he] is eventually arrested and crucified” for it (15).
Magdalene showed her immense love for Christ by going to His tomb the morning after his crucifixion to “clean his dead
body” (10). “… John [the Baptist] leapt in his mother’s
womb when the pregnant Mary approached at the Visitation” (6). John the
Baptist’s love for Christ was made apparent even before either of them was out of their mothers’ womb.
love for others is shown when he forgives “the judge and his executioner” (26).
Mansur al-Hallaj showed his love in forgiving those who murdered him. Mary
Dyer’s love is evident looking at her reaction to her executioners. “She
forgave the executioners, explained that she was doing God’s will, invited them to do the same, and spoke of the eternal
happiness she was about to begin” (70).
love of Mary, the mother of Christ, is made apparent in her yes to God to bear his Son so that all may live. Gemma Galgani loved through her suffering. She wrote, “It
is by suffering that one learns to love” (95). Josephine Bakhita’s
love was evident by her forgiving those who kidnapped her and brutally tortured her.
These witnesses also served Christ in many different
ways. Dymphna served Christ through the sick and the poor in Europe. Origen’s service for Christ was interpreting scripture and Christian doctrine. He also served Christ through others by “defend[ing] and hid[ing] his persecuted Christian students”
Clare served Christ by starting the religious
order of women called the “Poor Ladies”. St.
Ignatius Loyola served Christ by writing the “Spiritual Exercises” and by starting the religious order called
the Society of Jesus.
Edmund Campion served Christ by “presid[ing]
at illegal Masses for underground Catholics, and … secretly publish[ing] a statement in defense of Catholicism”
(63). Gerard Manley Hopkins served Christ by writing poems and seeing God in
Therese of Lisieux served, as a child of Christ,
in the small things in life. Alberto Hurtado served Christ through the poor,
the hungry, and the homeless. He was also an advocate for social justice. Hans Urs von Balthasar served Christ through writing books. A.T. Thomas served Christ through his work with the poor.
These witnesses to Christ peacefully resisted
evil Maximilian peacefully resisted evil in a couple ways according to Dear. Maximilian
refused to be drafted saying “I will not be a soldier of this world. I
am a soldier of Christ” (23). He also refused to wear the Roman seal, thinking
it idolatrous. He was “arrested and brought to trial” and later executed
Francis of Assisi went through the streets saying “‘Pace
e Bene!’ meaning, ‘Peace and goodness to you!” (41) “Francis
preached nonviolence, and in response, people threw rocks at him” (41). Despite
being made fun of, Francis remained peaceful and blessed those who cursed him.
were multiple things in this book I disagreed with. One of the things that annoyed
me the most was that Dear places present culture on the past. For example, he
says about John the Baptist, “He does not want us to… build nuclear weapons” (8). Nuclear weapon building was not an issue when John the Baptist was walking the earth.
Despite what I disagreed with, this book did
point out some of the ways in which each of these witnesses lived out the gospel through their love, their service, and their
peaceful resistance to evil.