The following passage is hardly an obscure one.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-16).
We hear this reading year after year, and the message is clear. We are forced to ask, “Do people know that I am a Catholic?” The reading calls to mind a list of things that we can and need to be doing in our homes and in public to “glorify our heavenly Father.” We take these things more or less to heart, maybe share them with our teens, and we move on with our lives.
Now, as someone who works in a parish and does regular ministry, the temptation is to respond to the question of whether to not people know I’m Catholic with a resounding “Yes.” I mean, I say the prayers, I wear the medals, I strive to live by the commandments of the Father and the doctrines of the Church. I believe in the Church, go to Mass at least every Sunday, and do all I can to study and fall deeper in love with our God. Not only that, but I do talk to my friends and family about my faith. I believe strongly and I do my best to live those beliefs.
So yes, people do know I’m a Catholic.
Now, I was comforted by that thought and able to go on with my practiced prayers and devotions, until I took an honest look at the parish whose employment I use as an example of faith, and how we as a staff conduct ourselves.
I was forced to ask myself, does my pastor know I’m Catholic? What about the rest the staff? If someone walked in off the street, knowing nothing about the Catholic faith or what all those crosses and stained glass stand for, would they think that this was anything but just another office?
It’s so easy within a parish to allow the day-to-day administrative work to become just another job. We are on fire and excited around the teens, but when we walk into the office on a Tuesday morning, do we have the same vigor and zeal for the Faith that we did on Sunday? Do we take advantage of the beautiful gift it is to work on the same plot of land as the Bread of Life, and do we strive to bring that gift, that grace, into our every interaction?
It’s our responsibility as those tasked by the Church to minister to bring Christ with us throughout our day. We need to be insisting that we pray before every meeting with the pastor or staff. We need to be getting involved in the parish, building faith based relationships with teens and families, as well as those who have nothing to do with our program. We need to be taking time to pray, and invite other members of parish staff to join with us. We need to be making sure that the way talk with and talk about our coworkers reflects the love of Christ. In short, we must bring Christ into our offices.
We cannot become complacent about those we see on a daily basis simply because our parish sign has the word ‘Catholic’ on it. Our mission field includes being a witness to every staff member, teen, parent, priest, and parishioner that we encounter. We need to show that we are set apart precisely because being Catholic means allowing love to overflow, calling others to continual conversion.
So, when Jesus calls us to be the salt, we should make sure that we are bringing out the flavor and uniqueness of those we encounter. When He calls us light, He calls us to banish the shadow of complacency from our lives and from the lives of those we interact with.
We need to be exhausting ourselves in love, not only for the teens who walk through our office doors, but all we meet. This is how we bring glory to our heavenly Father, and this is how people can know that we are not only Catholic by name, but Catholic by living practice.