We are not strange to questions like these: What should I do? Is this ok to take such an action? How do I know what I should do? When is the right time for that? Where do I begin? Would there be some consequence? …
To answer them, one of the usual ways is to look for some signs. Signs are necessary for our discernment. The disciples of Jesus in the Gospel today also asked about the sign of what was going to happen. It will be quite uncomfortable, risky and confusing if we don’t have clear signs. Without good signs, it’s just difficult to wisely make up our minds. But with bad signs, it’s even dangerous since we are mixed up between darkness and light.
Dear friend, allow me to share with you 3 true little stories about being a sign for others.
The first story: About two weeks ago, I met a non-christian lady. In our conversation, she said: “To be frank, I don’t trust anyone who goes to church!”
“Why?” I asked.
“You know what? One of my neighbors is a Christian. She goes to church everyday. I used to admire her devotion very much until one day I found out she did something very evil to her friend. I lost all my respect for her and for her religion. It was all fake!”
I was surprised by her strong reaction and simply responded to her: “Thanks for sharing. Well, if she went to church everyday to learn that God teaches everyone to be kind to one another with a sincere love in their hearts but she still did such an evil thing. Imagine if she had never been to church, what greater evil would she have done?”
The second story: Not so long ago, a student sent me a message via the internet and told me that she wanted to become a Catholic. I asked her: “Why so?” She answered: “I see the Catholic people around me live optimistically and lovingly. I want to be like them!”
The third story: Some days ago, one of my best friends who had a tumor in her brain. The doctors had to inject the medication directly into the tumor without using anesthesia since it was too dangerous for her health in this case. So, it was extremely painful. After the injection, two of the doctors sent me a message: “This morning, before the injection, she asked us to give her a short moment. She raised her hand, made the sign of the Cross and gave everyone a smile. Then she lied down on the operation bed and closed her eyes. It was so painful that she bit her lip without knowing it. But she did not utter any sound. Then she passed out. All of us doctors, non-catholic, were so impressed by her faith. That was the only topic we talked about during lunch today. She taught us about the value of her faith. Just a little sign of the Cross could make a difference. So amazing!” Being a patient, she even cured the vision and faith of the doctors. Please continue to pray for her as she continues this painful and dangerous treatment.
My dear friend, forty five years ago, more than 2,500 Catholic bishops in the whole world came to Rome during more than 3 years (10/1962-12/1965) to discuss different issues of the Church and the world. One important aspect was “to discern the signs of the times.” Now, we may want to ask ourselves: “What signs do I have to support my decision making? How do I know if they are good signs?” May we have clear vision to distingish different signs and wisdom to follow positive signs to cleverly make up our minds.
My friend, as we need good signs from others to make it right, in our turn, we also need to become positive signs for others. If you think it’s fair, then we need to answer the following questions: What sign am I to others? Is it good or bad? And more broadly we, as a community of Jesus’ disciples, what signs are we giving to the world? My friend, as we know, the Church is called for a mission and for this mission that the Church exists. What mission? That is to follow Jesus in making known the loving face of God to this broken world. In other words, together we are called to be a sign of God for others. How? I think there are many original and creative ways but the best way would be the very way that Jesus himself teaches us. He says: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
May these words of Jesus, The Best Sign of the Loving God, dwell in our minds and shine in our hearts so that we become a good sign for those around us who may suffer from hatred, division and despair.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.