Wear the habit of love
Christians have always had the problem of how to tell the world who they are even here in Trinidad and Tobago. Thus, one of the Archdiocesan Synod priorities was on Catholic culture and identity.
At various periods in history and still in some places in the world, uniforms and habits have played a very important role in announcing our identity to the world. In the mainline churches, however, the use of uniforms or habits has become less popular.
Jesus himself wrestled with the question of how to distinguish His followers from the non-believers around them. But His prescription goes much farther than external uniforms and habits. For Jesus the essential mark of distinction between Christians and non-Christians is not in the way we dress but in the way we live.
“I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:34–35).
Love is the Christian identity. Love is the Christian uniform. Love is the Christian habit. If you are wearing the habit of love, you are in. If you are not wearing love as a habit, you are out.
Jesus wants the world to recognise us as Christians. We need to evangelise and witness to people around us. But effective evangelisation and witnessing has less to do with how fluently we speak and more to do with how faithfully we live.
In the evangelisation of the Caribbean, many missionary groups came early and focused on making converts. Others came later but focused on service to the people, providing needed holistic education and medical care.
These latter groups succeeded where the former groups failed. Words are only a small part of our witnessing for Christ. St Francis of Assisi taught his friars, “Preach the gospel at all times and use words if necessary”.
The great Mahatma Gandhi was asked about his view of Christianity. What he said could show us what probably is keeping two-thirds of the world away from the Good News of Christianity.
“I have a great respect for Christianity. I often read the Sermon on the Mount and have gained much from it. I know of no one who has done more for humanity than Jesus. In fact, there is nothing wrong with Christianity, but the trouble is with you Christians. You do not begin to live up to your own teachings.”
The greatest service we can pay to the Christian faith is to live in such a way that through us people begin to have a glimpse of the unbounded and unconditional (agape) love that God has shown us in Christ. Let us fulfil the duty of hospitality, a priority of the Pastoral Plan in this Archdiocese.
Heavenly Father, You so loved the world that You sent Your Son to save the world through love. May we be inspired by the example of Jesus’ love to labour for the spread of Your Kingdom on earth by living love. Amen.
The Gospel Meditations for May are by San Fernando parish priest Fr David Khan.