Children learn by watching and doing. If we want to show others what is important to us, we practice and don’t preach. With the conclusion of the Holy Triduum in the Catholic church, Christians are celebrating several weeks of Easter Time. Now that the season of Lent is over, many think that the burden of “good works” is lighter. But what the world really needs is for more people to show faith in action.
Saint Francis of Assisi rebuilt the Church in the early Medieval times. Christians were lax and inclined to seek wealth and prosperity rather than good works. Francis was born into a wealthy family. However, he said he received a message from God that the church was falling down. He renounced his heritage and donated all he had to the poor. He worked to restore the church in both spirit and deed.
Don’t Preach, Do
Francis established a new religious order of preachers in the church. He was joined in his efforts by his sister in Christ, Clare, who established a mirror order for nuns. Through time, the popularity of the Franciscans grew and spread throughout Christendom. Even laypeople can join through the third order branch. Franciscans are known for their good works of charity in their communities. They follow the example of their founder, who said, “Preach the gospel of Christ, through actions and deeds. Use words when necessary.”
Lack of Doing
Life tends to move in cycles. Though Saints Francis and Clare worked hard to restore the Church to its purpose of being the hands and feet of Jesus, people often fail to follow through. It’s part of human nature to look for an easier way. This may be why people write checks to charities rather than investing time and effort. Donating used clothing and household items is a quick way to feel good about contributing without getting our hands dirty. We think about volunteering at a soup kitchen, but giving money to those who do, is much easier. Unfortunately, the church is again falling into disrepair because people aren’t reaching out with the love of Christ.
The religious leaders in Jesus’ time were the Pharisees. They ran the temples and told their fellow Jews how to practice what they preached. But, the old saying about power and corruption proved true, even then. These leaders imposed strict rules and harsh punishments, but did not practice what they preached. When Jesus saw the burden these teachers placed on his people, He called them whitewashed tombs. Lovely and clean on the outside, but rotten on the inside.
Too many preachers and lay people are tombs. We preach about the love of Christ, but our actions speak differently. We cross the street when we see a homeless person on the corner. Christians write checks to the missions but won’t accept the immigrant family with open arms. I was appalled when the parish I attended banned homeless people from the campus because they made parishioners uncomfortable. Our faith is empty.
Practice, Don’t Preach
Our faith is a gift. The God’s love belongs to everyone and is meant to be shared. We aren’t all called to start a new religious order or venture to a foreign land. But, we are called to die to self; each and every one of us. That means, we place the needs of others before our own. We must look for ways to bring God’s love to those in need. The mission field is all around us. We find it in the faces of everyone we meet. If we say we love Jesus, that love can’t be left in the church building after Mass. If we say we love Jesus, we can’t turn our backs on any justice or need. Do we love Jesus? Then we can’t turn up our nose at the tattooed biker next to us at the stop sign.
We think we are good Christians if we attend church and give tithes. We think we are good Christians if we donate our worn out clothing or remember others when we pray. But do we also think we are good Christians when we judge the actions and words of others? If we are truly conformed to the image of Christ, we must remember Mercy before judgement. Never forget that though Jesus admonished the woman caught in adultery, He loved her first. The world would truly be transformed this Easter Season if we loved first. True Christians remember, our lives are our testimony. Therefore, practice love and faith, don’t preach it.