How the witness of hope can change the world
What today’s world needs most for conversion to Christ, and for developing a desire to repent from moral relativism, self-centeredness, and rejection of true faith, is a witness that speaks the language of hope. The world needs Christians who can see and practice holiness as a way of life that is very desirable.
Who comes to mind first when you think of very holy Saints? Is it St. Francis of Assisi, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, and others who bore the stigmata – the wounds of Christ? Or perhaps Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Saint John of the Cross, and others who suffered the Dark Night of the Soul?
What about Saint Stephen from the Book of Acts who literally glowed with Christ? Or Saint Katherine of Alexandria whose face glowed with divine grace. Or Saint Stanislaus of Poland whose face glowed when he spoke of God?
Today’s world needs hope. Therefore we should be showing it that holiness is a glowing grace, not stigmata. Although there is much value in uniting ourselves to the sufferings of Christ (and indeed it is part of the calling of every Christian), this is not what draws others to Christ. And it is not the only proof of saintliness. It should not even be the goal of saintliness, nor should we focus our fascination on mystics who have been or are today stigmatists.
The world needs to see holiness as a joy, a gift. We Christians should be smiling as a result of our faith, and the pictures of Jesus that hang in our homes and churches should include his loving smile and his hearty laughter at least as often as his serious side and his suffering side.
We Christians, because the world is watching us, need to understand that obedience to God is freedom, not legalism. We must be examples of a freedom that is greater than the self-indulgent freedoms of moral relativism. We need to live as people who have been freed by Christ to be all that the Father created us to be, rather than give the impression that we are limited, constrained and mediocre puppets of a Church full of rules and regulations.
With the witness of hope, we can show the world that holiness means serenity, not severity. A true and holy relationship with Christ is one that fills us with relaxation because we’ve entrusted everything to God. It is a lifestyle of feeling peace and consolations from Christ even amidst trials and hardships.
We are not supposed to be a people of mortifications whipping ourselves with the chains of mental self-flagellations, beating ourselves for our sins (“through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”). Although recognizing our sins and expiating them through prayers and penances is holy, it is only a first step toward greater holiness. It is more important to focus on reconciliation with God than on the grievousness of our faults, and on the mercy of God who responds to our humble repentance with gifts of grace and with dancing and delight, who lifts us up as on wings of eagles, and who gives us more than we can ask for or imagine.
This is the faith that can change the world! Does the world need to repent? Yes of course! Does it need chastisements and punishments from an avenging Christ? Yes indeed, but that is not what Christ chooses to do. “I came not to condemn the world but to save it” (John 3:17). You and I are his presence on earth, his hands reaching out to others, his feet going out to where the people who need conversion can be found, and his voice calling out to those who are lost in the lies and sins of worldliness, his compassionate voice inviting them to a faith that is very attractive.
Only an attractive faith can attract people to Christ. Only the witness of hope, which lifts the spirits to joy, which is a fruit of life in the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22), can successfully invite others to taste and see the goodness of God. Only the glorious wonder of the miracle of bread and wine becoming Christ himself in the Eucharist can nourish the holiness that we wish the world would have – and this happens only when we are fully alive in the glory of God that is given to us in the Eucharist.
How will you choose to live this day? May we all become ever-improving testimonies of what holiness really is!
© 2013 by Terry A. Modica