When I drive to my parents’ house, I always love to take the back roads. It takes a bit longer, but I find it peaceful driving through old southern towns with antebellum homes, through the pretty countryside littered with fields of cotton, as well as past a family of cement geese that are always bedecked in the clothes of the season (I’m not kidding. They live in Blackshear.) I also love seeing the funny and thought-provoking signs outside the churches that dot the towns south of Dublin once you get off I-16.
During this week’s trip, as I was heading to my parents’ house to clean out 50 years of memories and everyday items, I saw a church sign that spoke to me. It said simply, “YOUR WALK TALKS LOUDER THAN YOUR TALK TALKS.”
Hmmmm. How is my walk actually talking these days? That gave me something to chew on for the next few hours. And it didn’t always taste that great.
Then, in classic form, God continued to hit me over the head with the same message the next day. I joined a friend Tuesday night for a Mass being said for her husband, who died earlier this year. The priest asked us to “live the faith we profess.” So clearly, I am hearing that it is not just good enough to say we are Christians. We have to live it. We can’t just talk to our kids about what they should and should not do, but we need to model it for them (eek). We need to do more than just show up at Mass or services on Sunday, but work on our prayer and service life during the week. We need to dabble (or more than just dabble) in Corporal Works of Mercy. We need to get outside of our comfort zone and do the hard work that God has called us to do. Yes, that means me. We can’t just wear a cross on our neck and say we are Christians. We need to, as St. Francis of Assisi said, “preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
I know for many Catholics, the whole “evangelical” thing is hard and not part of our normal M.O. But we are called to be more than just disciples. It is easy to say we love God, and that we are Christians. The hard part is living that – day in, day out. We are called to proclaim the good news. That’s the challenging part.
It can be hard, and it can be embarrassing. I got into a long conversation with a Marine named London in Wal-Mart yesterday. He seemed anxious to tell me his story about his tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. He had been shot six times, and showed me his severed finger. He was going back to Syria for his final tour in a few weeks, and then he plans to retire after 20 years of service. This man could not have been 38 years old. I promised him I would keep him in my prayers.
You know how you might say to someone, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” and then you just don’t do it for whatever reason. It doesn’t even have to be a bad reason. I think I really need to walk my talk and not just talk my talk and actually pray for London. I need to pray for his safe return to his mom after his final tour. I need to pray that he gets a good job when he returns after giving the last 20 years of his life for our country. I get to give a face to the “American soldiers fighting for our freedom” who we pray for every week at Mass that I can’t always get my head around, even though I have family members in the military.
“Do as I say and not as I do” might be easier for us as parents, but I am going to work on the “do as I do” part a little more. Thanks St. Francis. Thanks random church in south Georgia.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18