Holiness: most important form of evangelization Print
Live Greater
Thursday, Sep. 02, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

Live Greater by Jon Leonetti

"Holiness, whether ascribed to popes well-known to history or to humble lay and religious figures, from one continent to another of the globe, has emerged more clearly as the dimension which expresses best the mystery of the Church. Holiness, a message that convinces without the need for words, is the living reflection of the face of Christ." (Pope John Paul II)

The quote speaks for itself, eh? Holiness, as John Paul II reflected, is the way in which we bring the living Christ to the world.

In my last column, I reflected on the call for all of us, no matter who we are, to "go unto all the world and proclaim the Good News." I began by speaking about the little ways in which we are called to bring this "New Evangelization" to the world. I wrote about my parents, who by their profession of faith (simply taking me to Mass each Sunday) instilled in me a love for God.

In this article, I will speak on the most important form of evangelization of all: holiness.

Let's be honest, the word is a loaded word. Holiness in no way, shape, or form takes on one specific way, shape, or form.

What do I mean by that? I mean that all of us have been given a way, a shape, and a form for a particular way of living within our God. No way is the same. No saint is the same.

When Mother Teresa was told by a woman she wished she could do what Mother did, Mother immediately responded with the words, you can't, and you never will . . . you will do greater things, she went on to say. Mother's point was we have all been given a duty. That duty is the same in the sense that it is to always follow our Lord's will, and his will is lived out in over six billion ways.

Jesus Christ, calling each of us to "be his hands and feet," as St. Theresa repeated many times, is patiently awaiting our yes. With that yes, the yes to holiness (responding to his will) our lives and the world is changed. Is there any greater witness than responding and living that yes each day of our lives?

Sure, we will be mocked. We will be ridiculed and called hypocrites. We may even have to literally give our lives as so many Christian martyrs have done, but we will bring the world, by our example, the unfailing love of our God.

Go out into the world

This week, as we go off to our schools and workplaces, let us be reminded that we are called to let Christ live within us. It is done imperfectly as we all too well understand, but the point is, it is done. And then, with the grace of God, we can become the living saints he has destined us to be.

Recently I was speaking with a friend who had left the Church. He had converted to another denomination a few years ago. We began talking about the reasons he had left. Growing up his entire life as Catholic and having a firm faith in the Lord, I asked him why he would convert to another faith.

His answer: "My relationship with Jesus was hurting and I needed a faith where it could be strengthened."

I did not understand. We are the "one true faith," I thought. The faith that Jesus handed on to Peter. The Church that Christ married upon the cross. This faith, the faith of all the martyrs and saints, a faith of billions over the last 2,000 years . . . was not feeding a soul?

Of course, in my mind I was panicking. I love my faith. It means the world to me. And it hurts to see people walk away from it. I wanted to speak of our tradition, our many saints, our Mother Mary. I wanted to tell him about the faith of the martyrs. I wanted to tell him that our Church's mission is nothing more than to bring all hearts to the un-failing love of Jesus Christ.

But I didn't. I stood there and wondered where I went wrong. I thought of the many people in my own life who have done the same thing. Am I not holy enough, I wondered? Are we, the body of Christ, not fulfilling our mission to go out unto all the world and proclaim the Good News, first by living it?

I settled down, of course. The rush of my Catholic anxiety went away. And I continued to think.

Demonstrate love, mercy

It hurts to see good, God-loving people move to another faith because they feel as if they were not being spiritually fed. And unfortunately, this is all too familiar with many of our fellow brothers and sisters who have left the Church. Many of whom have found other faiths, or simply stopped practicing all together.

When we, by our daily example, demonstrate within our lives God's love and mercy, the world is changed. With the conversation I recently had, I felt it needed to be reiterated. Without this life of holiness that we have all been called to, our Church cannot survive.

But it has. And for 2010 years we have seen the greatest people (saints) to have ever lived walking and talking the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So I continued to think.

Did people run away from Padre Pio and Mother Teresa when they preached the Gospel? When people saw John Paul II did they see a fake?

No, they saw people, regular people, absolutely in love with Jesus Christ. This is what our mission as Catholics must be, to fall deeper in love with our Lord. When this happens, others will see and follow. Others will crawl to our Lord on hands and knees as they did when they encountered these saints, leaping into the arms of Christ.

Sharing in his love

We, the body of Christ, have been commissioned to share in his love. A love that demands of us to wear this "yoke" of our Lord upon our shoulders. A yoke of holiness and truth, of love and of dedication to the life our God has called us too.

When we strengthen our love for our God, our Church is strengthened. We are his body as St. Paul reminds us. And to be his body, we must first remain in him. By remaining in him, others will see, first hand, this indescribable joy that rests within our hearts. Then and only then, will we see this holiness transcend to the hearts of all.

Jon Leonetti, co-founder of Souly Walking, is a Catholic evangelist/radio host and speaker at conferences, schools, and parishes across the country about his cause and his walk across the United States.