Randy Hain at The Integrated Catholic Life asks the question of Christian communications (and our lives): “Do we make Christ and His Church attractive and inviting to others through our words, actions and the way we carry ourselves?”
We may be eloquent speakers, gifted writers or effective debaters. But, when it comes to sharing our Catholic faith none of those gifts matter if they don’t emanate from the true joy of having Christ in our hearts and of being devout in the practice of our Catholic faith. People can smell a phony and our culture is filled with false teachers and TV evangelists who make my point.
If we are joyful, even in the face of adversity — especially in the face of burdens and pain and seemingly unbearable challenges — and in the every day routines of our lives, people will want what we have. Hain points out:
Sometimes, people will not approach you. They will watch you and wait. They want to see if you are authentic. How do you act when you think nobody is watching? Are you as kind to the clerk at the grocery store as you are to a co-worker in the hall at the office? They, too, will want what you have and may be inspired to seek it out because of your example. “Our behavior will be the proving ground of our deepest convictions. This firmness in the Faith is often an excellent testimony to the beliefs of the Christian. In some cases it can cause people to begin their return to the House of the Father.” (Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Volume 4, page 270, 44.2)
This is, in no small way, at the heart of the examination of conscience Pope Francis is leading us on.
We get so busy living in the secular world, that we forget our Heavenly home. We lose sight of our priorities and instead of placing Christ first in our lives; we try to wedge Him in when it is convenient. Instead of experiencing Christ-inspired joy, we are overcome with financial anxiety, work stress, family problems and sometimes an attachment to material things which become more important than our relationship with Jesus.
Hain shares a checklist to help with our call to be salt and light:
First: “Surrender to Christ every day and recommit to putting him first in all areas of my life.” As Pope Francis and Pope Benedict have said again and again: Encounter with Christ is how we become fully ourselves, able to love with His love, as He stretches our hearts in His.
Second, this is about the friendship of our lives, which all of our relationships must be in union with: “Give up my burdens to Jesus in daily prayer. I can’t do it alone and I need His help!”
Thanksgiving! “Be thankful for my blessings. I can dwell on my problems or I can focus on all of the incredible blessings in my life and express my gratitude in prayer.”
Four: “Be a good student. I can’t live what the Church teaches if I don’t study our faith. I can’t be inspired by the Gospel if I don’t read it. I can’t emulate the Saints and their pursuit of holiness if I don’t read about their lives.”
Paul Thigpen’s A Year with the Saints (we talk about it here) can help.
Finally, always remember where we belong: “Start with the end in mind. Are my actions each day serving our Lord? I hope to hear Jesus say at the end of my life on earth, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We are made for heaven and not this world. Am I living the kind of life which will lead me there?”
Hain quotes Cardinal Dolan as a spiritual communications coach, shepherd that he is: “Being Catholic is not a heavy burden, snuffing the joy out of life; rather our faith in Jesus and His Church gives meaning, purpose and joy to life.”
Consider the simple manifestations of joy such as showing affection, smiling, laughter, joy after receiving the Eucharist in Mass or right after leaving reconciliation.
The world will place enormous pressure on our shoulders that may make it feel impossible to be joyful at times, but if we are truly living our faith and trusting in Christ, then no burden or suffering will hold back the love that is in our hearts.
Pope Francis is walking Catholics through an examination of conscience. Are we who we claim to be? Are we authentically living lives of Christian witness, knowing God, loving God, spending time with God in prayer and reaching out to him in his people, in the most forgotten and the weakest among us? Because if we do that, we will, every day, seek the good, bring out the good in others, encourage the good and beautiful.
You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.
(Matthew 5:13-14, 16)
Remember who we are, who we are called to be, Who we belong to. That will make all the difference in how we communicate.