This month Pope Francis sheds light on those Christian who have strayed away from the faith and explains a primary way these Christians will return to the faith. His intention prays, "that our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, may rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord and the beauty of the Christian life."
Of particular note, Pope Francis prays that Christians be brought closer to God through our "witness to the Gospel."
While words can be very powerful and change the hearts of many, we tend to be more skeptical of those who preach the truth and do not live it out. Those who live wedded to the truth and clearly show it in their actions are much more persuasive. We intuitively listen to Christians who practice what they preach.
The beauty of Christian witness is invaluable and most necessary in the world we live in. Above all things, it is a reflection of the beauty of God:
“The Virgin Mary and the saints are the luminous reflection and attractive witness of the singular beauty of Christ, beauty of infinite love of God who gives Himself and makes Himself known to men. These reflect, each according to their manner, as prisms of a crystal, faces of a diamond, contours of a rainbow, the light and original beauty of the God of Love; man’s holiness is a participation in the holiness of God and by it His beauty. When this is fully welcomed into the heart and spirit, it illuminates and guides the lives of men and women in their daily actions.” (The Via Pulchritudinis, §III.3)
By drawing closer to God, our lives reflect a particular beauty, which has the capacity to attract others to the beauty of God. In seeing the beauty of God in our lives, others see that being a Christian is not something oppressive or burdensome, but is actually liberating and beautiful.
“The beauty of Christian witness expresses the beauty of Christianity and provides for its future. How can we be credible in announcing the “good news” if our lives are unable to manifest the “beauty” of this life? From the meeting of faith with Christ, springs forth, in an interior dynamic action supported by Grace, the holiness of the disciples and their capacity to make “beautiful and good” their common life and that of their neighbours. It is not exterior beauty and superficiality, a façade, but an interior beauty that is painted under the action of the Holy Spirit. It shines before men: nothing can hide that which is an essential part of its being.” (The Via Pulchritudinis, §III.3)
Essentially, if we boldly proclaim the truth, but fail to live a life a holiness, our message is empty and has no weight. It does not affect the people we meet and they dismiss it without giving it a second thought.
We can not simply teach the truth boldly and expect that everyone will flock back to the Church. We must live it out first and foremost before we can be believable and gather in the strayed sheep.
Pope Paul VI put it most eloquently,
“‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.’ St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41,)
Let us remember this and reflect to others the merciful and loving care of God through our faithful witness to the Gospel.