Jesus warned to not be like the scribes and Pharisees, “For they preach but they do not practice,” another way of looking at that, “practice what you preach.” Sadly, I can think of at least one (okay, who am I fooling really MANY more than one) example in our lives, either now or in the past, when this could be said about me.
However, as I read these words, I thought of something I am far more often guilty of, “I practice but I do not preach,” Instead of the ole' do as I say, not as I do, I have created my own version with do as I do, not as I fail to say. Which is fine, because as St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, "Pray the Gospel always, when necessary use words," but sometimes WORDS are necessary. As this lifelong Catholic, who has just in the last 10 years begun truly practicing her faith, has learned; Catholicism is a very rich and beautiful faith about which most people know very little. Those who have discovered it ought to be sharing its depth with others.
After years of being away from the Church, my husband and I felt drawn back in 1993. We were active in Church activities, but my faith was still very much on the surface. In 2004, I joined a bible study which transformed my relationship with God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through the study of God’s Holy Word, my heart was opened to living a life of faith not just for one hour on Sundays but every moment of every day. Overtime, I shed my Pharisee ways, of having the appearance of being a woman of faith – with my collection of cross necklaces, rosary beads hanging from my rearview mirror, and touting my faithful Mass attendance (there in body but not really in mind and spirit).
Now, I own one cross, it is a crucifix; it has been blessed on Pope St. John Paul II, St. Maria Goretti and Padre Pio’s relics; and it never comes off. Those rosaries are still in my car but now they are prayed as I drive. Recognizing that the Liturgy is a foretaste of Heaven that this is Jesus – body, blood, soul and divinity — I am fully present and eternally grateful for it. I come to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. In addition, the music I choose praises God. The books I read, teach me more about Him and my Catholic faith. Even the TV and movie choices I make are done with my deep-seated beliefs in mind.
My life is ordered to God, as best I can – though not perfectly because I am not perfect - I guess I am perfectly imperfect. Though I pray my life clearly shows my love of God, my devotion to the Catholic faith, and my acceptance of Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I often wonder if I do it loud enough so as to a witness, particularly to my family, friends or fellow parishioners. Is this the group that my actions will indeed speak louder than my words? Do I need to be more attentive to practice not just in deed but in word and deed?
I will pray and ask the Lord to make it clear when it has become necessary to use words, and to always be a guide to those words. All the while asking for the grace to strike that heavenly balance between living as to witness but also to remain humble, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” The Pharisee's main concern was always himself, never those he was preaching to; may my life be a first a witness and me teaching be a sharing of my love of Christ and HIS love for us!