There is a cultural fatigue which is creating a hopelessness in the lives of more and more people everyday, and from the midst of that fatigue and hopelessness they are crying out for help.
More than ever, our non-Christian and non-practicing brothers and sisters are sending you, me, and all of Christianity a message. Though they are probably not aware of it, they are indirectly giving witness to the Gospel. For within the message the people of our times are sending us, there is a profound challenge for you and me to embrace a life rooted more fully in the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. Their message is clear, unmistakable, and disarmingly simple. Our siblings, parents, and children are sending us this message, as are our friends, neighbors, and colleagues at work. They are saying, whispering, crying out, “Don’t tell me, show me!”
Their plea comes from a longing deep within them and represents their great hunger. They don’t want to see another television evangelist, they don’t want to read another book or hear another tape about Christianity, and they don’t want to hear your amazing story of conversion. They want the real thing. They want to witness someone, anyone – just one will do – living an authentic life; someone whose words are supported by the authority of his or her actions. Someone striving humbly but heroically to live by what is good, true, and noble in the midst of, and in spite of, the modern climate.
They are not sending us this message merely to sound the childish cry of “hypocrite.” Rather, theirs is a natural cry – a cry for help. They are saying to us, “Don’t tell me, show me!” because they are so hungry for a courageous example of the authentic life, a life lived to the fullest, in this day and age. Seeing the conflicts and contradictions of your life and mine they often cry “hypocrite” out of their hurt and anger. They are angry because the disappointment of discovering that we are not living the life we espouse robs them of their own hope to live an authentic life. They are disillusioned and searching, but they never cease calling out to us like sheep without a shepherd, wanting to be fed, wanting to be led to the pastures of kindness, compassion, generosity, forgiveness, acceptance, freedom, and love.
I have heard this cry a thousand times, but the words of one man echo in my mind like a bad dream that keeps returning to haunt a terrified child. They are the words of Mahatma Gandhi. He is a man for whom I have great admiration – a man whom I believe strove with all his might to live an authentic life. I have studied his life and writings, but one passage stands out. It speaks to me with a clarity that pierces my heart.
In relation to the well known fact that Gandhi read from the New Testament everyday and often quoted the Christian Scriptures, a reporter once asked him why he had never become a Christian. He answered, “If I had ever met one, I would have become one.” In his own way, Gandhi was saying, “Don’t tell me, show me!” and simultaneously revealing his yearning for an example of an authentic life.
All this being said, I also believe there is a desire within each of us to live an authentic life. We desire not only to witness authentic lives, but also to live an authentic life ourselves. We genuinely want to be true to ourselves. At times, we have perhaps resolved to live such a life with all the fervor we could muster. But, distracted by the sweet seduction of pleasure and possessions, we have wandered from the narrow path. We know the truth, but we lack the discipline and strength of character to align the actions of our lives with that truth (cf. Matthew 26:41). We have given ourselves over to a thousand different whims, cravings, and fantasies. Our lives have become merely a distortion of the truth we know and profess. We know the human family’s need for kindness, compassion, generosity, forgiveness, acceptance, freedom, and love, but we have divided our hearts with a thousand contradictions and compromises.
At every moment, the entire modern world kneels before us, begging, pleading, beckoning, for some brave man or woman to come forward and lead them with the example of an authentic life.
In many respects our age is an age of abundance, but amidst this abundance (which at times may seem all-prevailing) there remains a great hunger in the people of today. We have a universal hunger for the authentic; a longing to be and become and experience all we are capable of and created for. Everything good in the future (for ourselves, our marriages, our families, our communities, our Church, our nation, and humanity) depends on whether or not we will follow this longing.
This article is adapted with permission from Matthew Kelly’s book, Rediscovering Catholicism. Get your FREE copy of Rediscovering Catholicism at www.DynamicCatholic.com.
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