A Most Difficult Question to Answer

Photography © by Andy Coan

Photography © by Andy Coan

When I give talks around the country or sometimes in correspondence with readers of my books or blog posts on Integrated Catholic Life, I am often asked what I mean when I encourage others to “be joyful” and share the “light of Christ” with others.  I am referring to the response I typically give when asked for effective ways to share our Catholic faith at work and in the public square.  I sometimes get strange and curious looks.  “Surely, there is more to it than that,” they might be thinking or “Well, I wanted the 10 step plan, but I guess I can try this,” may cross their minds.

I share these basic concepts with good reason.  Do you recall Christ’s teaching in the Gospel of Matthew:  “You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father”  (Matthew 5:13-14, 16).  Do we really share our Christ-inspired joy with others?  Are we the light of Christ to everyone we encounter? 

“You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” – Gospel of Matthew 5:13-14 and 16 – See more at: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2010/06/some-profound-wisdom-on-faith-and-work/#sthash.mh93C6HP.dpuf
“You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” – Gospel of Matthew 5:13-14 and 16 – See more at: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2010/06/some-profound-wisdom-on-faith-and-work/#sthash.mh93C6HP.dpuHow many of us really share out Christ-inspired joy with others?  Are we sharing the light of Christ to everyone we encounter?

Here is the most difficult question of all to answer:  Do we make Christ and His Church attractive and inviting to others through our words, actions and the way we carry ourselves?

We may be eloquent speakers, gifted writers or effective debaters.  But, when it comes to sharing our Catholic faith none of those gifts matter if they don’t emanate from the true joy of having Christ in our hearts and of being devout in the practice of our Catholic faith.  People can smell a phony and our culture is filled with false teachers and TV evangelists who make my point.

The type of faith sharing I am advocating will often have people seeking us out because they want to know why we seem so…joyful!  “What is your secret?” and “What is going on with you?” are questions you may receive because they desperately want what you have in their own lives.  Can you imagine a better opening to a faith conversation?

Sometimes, people will not approach you.  They will watch you and wait.  They want to see if you are authentic.  How do you act when you think nobody is watching?  Are you as kind to the clerk at the grocery store as you are to a co-worker in the hall at the office?  They, too, will want what you have and may be inspired to seek it out because of your example.  “Our behavior will be the proving ground of our deepest convictions. This firmness in the Faith is often an excellent testimony to the beliefs of the Christian. In some cases it can cause people to begin their return to the House of the Father.” (Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Volume 4, page 270, 44.2)

So, why is this question of whether or not we make Christ and His Church look attractive to others so awkward and uncomfortable?  I think the answer is because most of us, myself included, feel convicted that we fall short in this area.  We get so busy living in the secular world, that we forget our Heavenly home.  We lose sight of our priorities and instead of placing Christ first in our lives; we try to wedge Him in when it is convenient.  Instead of experiencing Christ-inspired joy, we are overcome with financial anxiety, work stress, family problems and sometimes an attachment to material things which become more important than our relationship with Jesus.

Let me share five simple actions I try to follow in my desire to be joyful and share the light of Christ with others. This is by no means the definitive list, but this short checklist helps me stay on track:

  • Surrender to Christ every day and recommit to putting him first in all areas of my life.
  • Give up my burdens to Jesus in daily prayer. I can’t do it alone and I need His help!
  • Be thankful for my blessings. I can dwell on my problems or I can focus on all of the incredible blessings in my life and express my gratitude in prayer.
  • Be a good student.  I can’t live what the Church teaches if I don’t study our faith.  I can’t be inspired by the Gospel if I don’t read it.  I can’t emulate the Saints and their pursuit of holiness if I don’t read about their lives.
  • Start with the end in mind. Are my actions each day serving our Lord? I hope to hear Jesus say at the end of my life on earth, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We are made for heaven and not this world.  Am I living the kind of life which will lead me there?

Still not sure if this is doable?  I personally sub­scribe to the thinking of Cardinal Dolan of New York, who said, “Being Catholic is not a heavy burden, snuffing the joy out of life; rather our faith in Jesus and His Church gives meaning, purpose and joy to life.” Consider the simple manifestations of joy such as showing affection, smiling, laughter, joy after receiving the Eucharist in Mass or right after leaving reconciliation.

The world will place enormous pressure on our shoulders that may make it feel impossible to be joyful at times, but if we are truly living our faith and trusting in Christ, then no burden or suffering will hold back the love that is in our hearts.

If I ever feel like I am not having a positive effect on the world, I can always show my sincere, Christ-inspired joy to those I encounter each day in hopes of at least making a difference in the life of another person. That is a good place to start.


Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was released by Liguori Publications.  The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.

Randy Hain’s exciting second book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was  released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012.   Along the Way was voted Runner-Up in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012.  His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released in February, 2013. His newest book, LANDED! Proven Job Search Strategies for Today’s Professional was released in December 2013 by Serviam Press.

All of Randy Hain’s books can also be purchased at your local Catholic bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or www.liguori.org.

Looking for a Catholic Speaker?  Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.


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11 Comments

  1. Great post, Randy. I was with my men’s group last week when one of the brothers shared an incredibly negative situation with his job. He was taking the news very well, which prompted similar questions as above. He responded with 2 questions:

    1. Did I sleep indoors last night?
    2. Was there ample food on the table for my family?

    His response provided a unique perspective.

  2. Well said Randy! My pastor said one day, “who wants to join a club with members that don’t have enthusiasm for it themselves!?” He said, “I am a joy-filled priest, that is, by God’s grace, how I attract new souls to the Kingdom!” I like to think I am basically a joy-full person and yet, being human, can get myself in a rut sometimes…allow myself to feel the weight of certain problems – so I greatly appreciate the 5 points you give, to be as consistantly joyful as possible! Thank you!!

  3. Great post Randy

    I particularly like the way you talked about giving our burdens to Jesus IN DAILY PRAYER. Years ago I used to try to think myself through giving up my worries and burdens to Christ with little success and then.. Chad and I came into regular prayer and scripture reading time. That was the purest way I found to truly take on Christ yoke versus my own. I always come out of prayer and scripture time “lighter” in heart! God works divinely with us during that time and it truly does enact the transfer we need :) ….

    Enjoyed our last quick coffee – look forward to the next one!

  4. Dear Randy,

    This is excellent and is what I have been meditating on daily for quite a while. The “salt” is living out our beautiful, joy-filled Catholic faith in our daily lives and the “light” is how we lead others to know and follow Christ in their lives as well. I am convinced that the only piece we do not have as Catholics is the “How to share our faith” component of the equation. I would love for part of the “The New Evangelism” and “Year of Faith” to include “Evangelism training.” I believe the Church is ready for this and even hungry for it as more and more Catholics encounter Jesus Face to face and long to share Him and this relationship with all they meet. God bless you, Melissa Overmyer

    1. Thank you Melissa! I appreciate your comment and agree. But, it all starts with the way we live, speak, think, pray, love…

      God bless,

      Randy

  5. I totally agree with you, Randy. I experience the same things you experience when I try to share my faith with others as well. Sadly, only a few would listen but most would not and sometimes you’d get insulted even mocked too, but we’ll just have to bear it by simply praying for those who do that then move on.

  6. I think this was of sharing our faith is critical because at the core of it all, aren’t we inviting others to the cross? That’s the expression of and means to the ultimate joy of Christ, and it involved taking up our own crosses in so many ways in our own lives. In a culture that is so immersed in self gratifying earthly pleasures, it seems impossible to draw others to the fullness our our faith unless we ourselves are authentically joyful.

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