I used to work with a lady from another Christian church who was always talking about a difference between “confessing belief in Jesus” and “witnessing.” I have often wondered if there is a difference between the usage of these terms between Protestants and Catholics?
So, let me ask if you ever personally made a public, vocal expression of your belief in Jesus Christ? I am not talking about liturgical settings, with the “canned” prayers, responses, and creeds that may not always reflect the real attitude of your heart. I’m talking about sharing with someone about who you think Jesus really is, and what that means to you. “Witnessing” in the usual sense means verbally testifying from your heart plainly about what God has done in your life, and how that makes you feel and act. Our non-Catholic evangelical brothers and sisters put us Catholics to shame in this regard. They do not hesitate to publicly “confess” their faith in Jesus. They are also fearless about “witnessing” about Jesus - a subsequent act which naturally follows a confession of belief (and this is a quality sorely needed by each and every Catholic).
Most of us reading this are “cradle Catholics.” We take our Christianity for granted – meaning our belief that Jesus
is the Messiah, the Son of God. For that reason, Catholics tend to "opt" for the silent witness of their life, as guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. But Catholics excel at witnessing about “the rock,” the leadership
instituted by Jesus himself for the necessary stability of authority and doctrine in the Church he established. We also strongly believe that this “rock” is more than just the simple confession of faith itself (which is what our Protestant brothers and sisters believe). Clearly it is more, because Jesus gives to the newly-named Peter (“Rock”), and to Peter alone, the “keys” (Matt 16:13-20) – which in scripture categorically means the authority of the giver of the keys and the attendant responsibilities. This is also clearly illustrated in the First Reading where the authority as chief steward or “major domo” passes to another by means of the symbol of passing on the “key” of the House of David (Is 22:19-23).
This authority and leadership given by Christ to Peter has been passed on ever since then, to the next Bishop of Rome who succeeds him. We call this anointed person the Pope (Greek = papa, therefore a father-figure of authority).
The Lord made Peter the “rock” of his Church, and gave him the keys which made him the shepherd of the whole flock. After the resurrection and Pentecost, Peter confessed and proclaimed Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God. Each member of the flock (= the laity) is established and empowered with the mission of witnessing and leading others to faith, both by word and the testimony of their lives. In this way “Witnessing” is not an option; it‘is a
Also see articles #881, #440, and #904-5 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.