posted on April 28, 2013 16:00
Many years ago I was at a college meeting when a nun walked through the room, asked someone a question, and then left. Although she hadn’t said a word to me, I noticed her because there was something striking about her presence. I inquired who she was, and over the following few years our paths crossed several times as we came to know each other. The beauty and goodness of a person’s life speaks silently to the heart of those who see them. Beauty and goodness attract our attention and
Every Easter Season we read from the Acts of the Apostles. For baptized followers of Jesus Christ, it is a kind of annual review of our call to be evangelizers. Advent is four weeks, Lent is forty days, but the Church gives us fifty days of celebrating Christ’s resurrection and unpacking how the Risen One impels the once frightened apostles and disciples to run with Good News to the ends of the earth.
That outward missionary thrust includes you and me. At a recent gathering Pope Francis asked: “And we? Are we capable of bringing the Word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives?”
There are many ways to “speak” of Christ. As you and I know, people aren’t always receptive to words
about Jesus or the life he invites us to share. We can always “speak,” however, through the goodness of our hearts and lives, which, like a perfume people can’t help but notice, can draw people to Jesus when they are with us.
But if we want to attract others to Jesus, we can’t “put on an act.” It must be real. Pope Francis offers us some help here. His example teaches today’s evangelizers—you and me—two things.
- Pope Francis was genuine. When he first stepped onto the balcony after his election, our new pope was taken aback by the crowds and probably also how his life had taken this new turn. And that’s exactly what you saw. In fact, I have been told that someone standing near him had to tell him, “You can wave now.” That almost cautious wave of his hand is what was captured in the photos that have endeared him to so many.
- He asked people to pray that God would bless him before he invoked God’s blessing on them. In a striking but simple gesture he bowed his head and reminded us all of our nobility and responsibility as baptized members of the Church. No long speech, just a gesture that emerged from the way Pope Francis lives all the time. I know of a lot of people who are willing to give the Church another chance, simply because they sense Pope Francis’s authenticity.
Pope Francis invites us to a simple evangelization within reach of us all with these words:
“Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life. Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our action what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God! I am thinking now of some advice that Saint Francis of Assisi gave his brothers: preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words. Preach with your life, with your witness. In God’s great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships. These are the saints of every day, The ‘hidden’ saints, a sort of ‘middle class holiness,’ as a French author said, that ‘middle class holiness’ to which we can all belong.”
by Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP