Our theme for the first Friday of Lent is living as an example for others.
True repentance means moving not only away from sin, but toward goodness (and ultimately toward God). To set in our minds a solid vision of what we want our hearts to look like, we can consider what example we’re presenting for others to follow. Are our actions, our words, our demeanor and attitude helping others see Jesus in us? Do our lives make people ask, “What’s the secret? How can they be living such a good life, be so happy, be so generous and loving?”
As baptized Christians we are all called to participate in Jesus’ 3-fold mission for the sake of the Kingdom of God. We are called to be
Priests – to sanctify the world through prayer and sacrifice
Prophets – to call people more deeply into the Covenant by preaching and teaching
Kings – to use the authority of the Kingdom of God to bring goodness and love into the world, to serve others in the name of Jesus.
If you be a holy people, you are also a royal priesthood; if you be all God’s saints, you are all God’s priests; and if you be His priests, it is your office to preach too; as we by words, you by your holy works; as we by contemplation, you by conversation; as we by our doctrine, so you by your lives, are appointed by God to preach to one another; and therefore every particular man must wash his own feet, look that he have speciosos pedes, that his example may preach to others, for this is truly a regal priesthood, not to work upon others by words but by actions. If we love one another, as Christ loved us, we must wash one another’s feet, as He commanded His apostles; there is a priestly duty lies upon every man, brotherly to reprehend a brother whom he sees trampling in foul ways, wallowing in foul sins.
The laity are called to this mission every bit as much as the priesthood. But while the mission of the ordained fulfills Jesus’ mission through the Sacraments and through preaching, the laity are called to fulfill this mission in the context of our everyday lives – through works of charity and service, through conversations with others, and through a transformed life.
Our many deeds, the thoughts that we have thought,
They go out from us, thronging every hour;
And in them all is folded up a power
That on the earth doth move them to and fro;
And mighty are the marvels they have wrought,
In hearts we know not, and may never know!
Our actions travel, and are veiled ; and yet
We sometimes catch a fearful glimpse of one,
When out of sight its march hath well nigh gone;
An unveiled thing which we can ne’er forget
All sins it gathers up into its course,
And they do grow with it, and are its force
One day, with dizzy speed, that thing shall come,
Recoiling on the heart that was its home.
Of course, there are a few things we don’t want to do as we consider the example we present to the world.
- We don’t want to put on a false face for the world. Instead we want the world to see a true transformation in us.
- We don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking we can make ourselves good through effort and grit. Growing in virtue and goodness is always a matter of cooperating with grace. Our Triune God will transform our hearts. Our efforts to become good participate in the transforming power of grace.
- We don’t want to become mere social activists. To be effective, our good works must flow from a transformed heart and be infused in love.
Let the world see a heart in you that is truly transformed in Jesus. Let them see our Lord in you as you present your example to the world.
Nothing is so infectious as example. If you wish your neighbors to see what Jesus Christ is like, let them see what He can make you like. If you wish them to know how God’s love is ready to save them from their sins, let them see His love save you from your sins. If you wish them to see God’s tender care in every blessing and every sorrow they have, why let them see you thanking God for every sorrow and every blessing you have. Example is everything. One good man—one man who does not put his religion on once a week with his Sunday coat, but wears it for his working dress, and lets the thought of God grow into him, and through and through him, till everything he says and does becomes religious, that man is worth a ton of sermons — he is a living Gospel — he comes in the spirit and power of Elias — he is the image of God. And men see his good works, and admire them in spite of themselves, and see that they are godlike, and that God’s grace is no dream, but that the Holy Spirit is still among men, and that all noble- ness and manliness is His gift, His stamp, His picture; and so they get a glimpse of God again in His saints and heroes, and glorify their Father who is in Heaven.
So take some time to consider today what example of a transformed heart you can present to the world. Pray to the Holy Spirit to show you where He wants to change your heart. Then be more conscious of how you share your heart with the world.
Quotations taken from A Rosary for Lent by Miriam Coles Harris. This book is in the public domain.
Also published on Medium.