When I am out in the world, many people see me wearing my Crucifix pendant and feel compelled to speak with me. While some do comment on how beautiful the Crucifix is and share their own experiences of Christ, some do ask me why am I a Christian in this day and age, especially a Catholic. We then proceed to have a conversation on the whys and the why-nots.
I speak on how Christ permeates my life and how I hope that He positively touches people in the world through me. I explain that my Crucifix pendant is a self-reminder that Christ is who I aspire to emulate. I say, "If I do well, then glory be to God, but if I do not, then call me on it so that I may reconsider and repent." The Crucifix sets up an expectation, one that I try to live by.
Those statements are usually received well, but invariably, I hear their complaints about the faithful, that too many of us judge and dismiss too many people. I am told that too many of us do not practice what Christ taught us, that we do not love as much as we should, trust as much as we should, or hope as much as we should.
Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Poignant, and I do not disagree.
It takes a concerted effort to become as Christ. It takes much love, faith, and hope. It takes recognition of Christ. It takes encounter and relationship with Him. We do not just become Christ-like instantly; we grow into it consciously. We hope to grow enough to emulate Christ perfectly, but we must know that this is hard to do.
We know that to love as Christ did is not necessarily easier for us who think about our lives in Christ often, yet it is true that we can grow more aware of the challenge that is to love as He did. We do not have a cheat sheet that allows us to access the easy mode of the Christian life, yet it is true that we can grow more aware of what needs doing and, to a certain degree, how to go about it. Jesus showed great humility and selflessness during His interactions with people, and that tells us that great humility is needed, and that we must learn to let go of our selfish selves and grow closer to the selflessness of Christ.
We are called to more than just being; our love is not to remain static but is meant to grow, and what that means is an individual call to each of us. Each person, every single one of us, has had their own unique life experience. We must look at each person individually and see their lives, their hurts, their shortcomings, their strengths, and their dignity. We must grow to see them as Christ sees them.
Just like Christ, we are called to compassion and empathy. We might never understand the fullness of those we meet, for we are not omniscient, but that just means that we have to work harder towards the active use of our understanding, our compassion, our empathy, and our love. This is so we may see each other through the eyes of Christ, the same as He looks at us.
Christians believe Jesus died for us. He gave up His most perfect self for us, for good people and not-so-good people, for saints and sinners, for the joyful and the suffering, for the healthy and the sick, for the people at the edges of society and the ones embraced, for the shunned and the accepted...
If this is true, and I believe it is, then Christ intended for us to learn to love one another in this same way. He gave us hope, that we may share it with others and hold on tight even when our lives are not going great. To support us along the journey, He left himself behind in the Eucharist.
Catholics believe Christ gives himself to us yet again in the Eucharist as a sustaining gift of communion so that our love, faith, and hope are strengthened. All that so we can go out to the world and love as He loves. Yes, we must be prepared to give a reason for our hope, but more importantly, we must be willing to work to show His love.
Let us consciously put this into practice.
Let us pray: Lord, help turn our hearts into Your heart. Help us to love as You love, that armed with the confidence and trust that comes from our knowledge of You, we may bring about Your love, peace, hope, and understanding. That You be glorified in what we do in Your name. Amen.