By Sarah-Leah Pimentel, South Africa •
One of my favourite church hymns has this chorus: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
This reminds me of its antithesis. Mahatma Ghandi was once quoted as saying that he had great respect for Christ but did not have great regard for Christians.
Ghandi’s comment touches the heart of what where we have often failed to be truly Christian. To be a Christian is not about the number of Masses we attend, the number of rosaries we pray or being involved in every ministry in the parish. To be a Christian means to follow Christ. Following Christ requires that we become more like Christ. Christ is the embodiment of love. So we too, must become love, in every situation of our lives. “They will know that we are Christians by our love.”
Last year, the Schoenstatt family asked Pope Francis how to invite young people to a fuller life in Christ. We can summarise his answer in one word. Testimony.
What is the best mode of evangelization? Testimony. What is our life’s mission? Testimony. Essentially Pope Francis calls on us — both young and old — to “live life in such a way that others will be interested enough to ask why?”
Why does she not react with anger to slander?
Why does he not move in with his girlfriend before marrying, even though it is more convenient?
Why is that couple able to stay married despite so many difficulties?
“Coherence in your life”
When we behave according to values that are contrary to today’s culture, people do notice. They recognize that we are living by a different value system. Many may mock us for it, but there are those who – through the testimony of our lives – may be inspired to consider a different way they may not have thought about before.
Therefore, it is so important that there is “coherence in your life,” says Pope Francis. He explains this, saying that our mission to evangelize the world is most successful when we don’t live a “double life.” If we call ourselves Christians but live like pagans, we send out a confusing message and people will describe us in much the same way as Ghandi did.
The Holy Father’s words perhaps call us to reflect on whether all the aspects of our lives are coherent with what it means to be a Christian. Are there aspects of my life that I am called to change, so that I can live more coherently?
Humility and Forgiveness
Of course, we are not perfect. The Holy Father reminded us at the audience in Rome last year that “we all waver because we all are weak, we all have problems.” But yet, this becomes an opportunity for us to “humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness.”
Francis is telling us that if we are too perfect, or think that we are too perfect, we sin through pride and this makes us “snobs” and we become so immobilized by the sense of our own perfection and forget that our core mission is to go out “to find sheep.” The danger of becoming wrapped up in a sense of our self-righteousness is that we become deluded that we can only be in the company of people who are as holy and righteous as us, or in Pope Francis’ words: “they dedicate themselves to their little group, combing sheep…they become spiritual hairdressers!”
It is our weaknesses that make us humble. This was also St. Paul’s experience:
“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.”
Overcome fear and set out on the journey of life
Our weaknesses keep us humble and they make us freer to hand our lives to God, allowing him to take us where He has planned. Pope Francis encourages us to cast our fears aside and set out on the journey of life. On this journey, we will make mistakes, but we will also find our own unique mission.
A journey is never comfortable. It forces us to leave our comfort zones and relying on more than our own power. It is a call to entrust everything to God in prayer and to encounter others that we may find along the road of life.
In the words of our Fr. Kentenich, the journey and the mission of encounter is the prayer of confidence we make in our Morning Consecration:
“Even in storms and dangers you will always remain faithful…you will send us vocations who join us in pledging themselves for your kingdom. You will give us work and richly bless us and unite your unlimited power to our powerlessness.” (Heavenwards, Morning Consecration)
Tiredness is a symptom of selfishness
It is interesting to reflect that in our Evening Consecration, we ask for forgiveness for the “many hidden reservations” that “made our hearts tired and cold.” Pope Francis also warns us against tiredness. Normally, this is something we expect of the elderly, but the Pontiff says very clearly that even the young can experience “the temptation of tiredness.” Tiredness is a symptom of selfishness.
We may be tempted to say: I have done my part. Now it is someone else’s turn. However, Francis warns us of the oasis in the desert, that when we “find a beautiful place we like, we want to remain there.” But he tells us that we cannot remain. We can rest and regain our strength, but then we are called to continue on the journey “because we go out to give something, go out on a mission.”
A mission to draw youthful hearts to God
Ultimately, we could say that that our life’s mission is to be the Blessed Mother’s instrument “to draw youthful hearts to myself” as she promised in our Founding Document. We can only do this if our own hearts are youthful. Our inner youthfulness is shown by the enthusiasm with which we encounter the world around us. Our youthfulness and enthusiasm is what attracts others to us. Our testimony is the light that shines so that “others can see the good works that the Father works through us,” Pope Francis concludes.
They will know that we are Christians by our love. They will know that we are Christians by our coherent testimony.