Is religion a private matter? In the age of Facebook, Twitter, and innumerable blogs with opinions of every type for anyone who will listen, hardly anything is private! Yet there are more critical reasons why, for Christians, our faith is not simply a private matter but also public. Why is that? I’d like to suggest two reasons.
First, as followers of Jesus we are called to evangelize.
That is, we’re called to spread the good news. However, if we live our faith in a purely private fashion we cannot do this.
No one can come to know the Lord who has no knowledge of him, and it is primarily through his followers that Jesus can be known. When we are like Jesus, when we show the same merciful attitude he did, when we live his teachings daily, then we show in public what we believe in our hearts (a private, personal decision).
There is an intimate connection, for it is in this inner life, the life of prayer, that we must begin our work as evangelists, our public ministry. This is largely a ministry of example and love in our daily lives. Most of us will never preach, and we can’t simply moralize or otherwise tell people what to think and do. People will make their own decisions. However, if we show love in everything we do, we are able to attract others to Jesus and to the faith. As was said of the early Christians, “See how much they love one another!”
Second, from the beginning God chose a People.
God chose Israel by calling Abraham and promising that he would be the father of a great nation which the Lord would make his own. Later the Church, the New Jerusalem, became the People of God and the seed of salvation for entire human family (Lumen Gentium, No. 39, and Chapter II). Our faith teaches that we come to God not in isolation but through belonging to the Family of God the Father through our faith in his Son. It is this community aspect that also makes our religion public.
What does this mean for Catholic mothers?
We have a great calling to teach our children to know Christ and want to be like him. So often we think we have to be perfect as women, wives and mothers. We should remember that our Example is Jesus and the same is true for our children. Even children of tender years can come to know who Jesus is.
The more we expose our children to Jesus and help them know him, love him, and want to be like him, the more we will help them to lead a spiritual life. The more they live the inner life faithfully, the more apt they will be to live their faith publicly. May God help us in this sacred endeavor!
Copyright 2014, Julie Paavola