How do others know we are truly Christians?

Diana Vega Flores, 18, sings during a Jan. 30 youth ministry program at Corpus Christi parish in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (CNS photo/David Maung) See MEXICO-JUAREZ-GANGS-GOD Feb. 5, 2016.

St. Catherine of Siena once wrote, “People have faith and hope only in what they love.” Are people able to see through our lives that we are radically in love with Our Lord? Or have we allowed ourselves to be deceived into thinking, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus, I’m a good person,” without really letting our relationship with Him affect the way we live our lives?

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel, OP

As Christians, we are all called to be disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple does not mean just to be someone who knows about Jesus, or someone who is Catholic simply because that is how we grew up. To be a disciple means to have thrown our whole lot, our whole lives, in with the Lord. It means that our relationship with Him radically affects everything we are and everything we do.

St. Paul explains this relationship of discipleship eloquently: “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21a). Everything in St. Paul’s life was so affected by his initial encounter and continued relationship with Jesus that his entire life could be summed up in Jesus’ name, “Christ,” the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.

What a privilege it is for us to bear the name of Christ, to be Christians! And yet how often do we take this fact for granted and go about our day just as everyone else, as though there were nothing different or special about what we have received. But instead, it should be abundantly obvious to everyone that there is something that sets us apart.

One of the clearest signs of someone who is truly living as a disciple of Jesus Christ and is filled with His Holy Spirit is the presence of the gift of joy. This is not a giddiness, but a true, deep, lasting sense that one is loved infinitely by God and that one responds in love to Him and His will. Can others see in us that we really believe that we are loved and cherished by God, and that they are, too? Or are our lives signs more of fear and distrust than of love and joy?

Jesus presents us with a choice, just as He presented those of His day with a choice, to follow Him radically or not. There is no middle ground, no such thing as a “good enough” Christian. If Jesus truly is God in the flesh, as He claimed to be, then the whole history of the world has been turned, as it were, upside down. And only if we choose to follow Him by loving Him at each moment and in all aspects of our lives, will we be able truly to say that we believe and hope in Him. May we choose as His disciples to live totally for Him and to let His faith, hope, love, and joy shine through us.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharsist.