Not deserting

On the bookshelves in my room I have a select handful of Bible commentaries. These books enrich me and are also an invaluable help in preparing my talks, homilies and preaching. Without them, it would be more difficult for me to understand the Word of God, and I would see my possibilities of communicating it reduced… even after going through prayer to reach my personal synthesis.

I have no doubt that the best preaching should be the preaching that we actually live, the preaching that we are able to show in our normal life. The one that is supported not so much by words but by that universal language which is none other than coherence and example. I feel myself reflected in that phrase of Friedrich Nietzsche when he accused Christians by rebuking them: “If the good news of your Bible were written on your face, you would not have to insist so stubbornly that the authority of that book be believed. Your actions would have to make the Bible superfluous, for you would have to be continually the Bible itself”.

There is, no doubt, a grain of truth in his words. I have to admit that. But they cannot be universalised. Far from it. To be honest with reality, on the roads of the world we do not only find faces flattened by indifference or seduced by selfishness, but also many, many faces that are living commentaries of the gospel. They are young and old, the faithful and people who believe that they do not believe but who live a whole and generous life. We meet them every day. Pope Francis calls them “saints next door”. They are those who have broken down between themselves and others and God “the Chinese wall of self”.

Indeed, we find them. There are many people who do not live apart from people, neither in a monastery nor in a cave in the desert. Their life is normal: they travel by bus, shop in the supermarket and take their children to school. They adapt their customs and habits to those of the vast majority of their fellow citizens. But they exude a different smell because they try to live as good followers of Jesus. As the anonymous author of the Discourse to Diognetus said, “what the soul is in the body, that is what Christians are in the world […] This is the place God has appointed for them, and it is not lawful for them to desert it”. Therefore, a Christian who does not live inserted in the world would be a deserter. Their lives may not be entirely perfect but, even in the midst of their inevitable imperfections and falls, they go on, they transmit joy, they please the Lord and they do us all untold good. And most of the time they do it without realising it. Their faith does not cause them to desert.

Juan Carlos cmf

(PHOTO: Hannah Busing)


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