The Public Face of Christian Life

11 November 2008 Memorial of St. Martin of Tours
Titus 2, 1-14; Psalm 37; Luke 17, 7-10

The first reading is concerned with our domestic life and its ‘public face’. It is a list of virtues and vices. The list is addressed to recognizable social groups such as older men and women, young men and women. They are all called to become good family examples: self-controlled, steadfast and loving. The list of virtues are pretty obvious, but its focus is on the witnessing value the new religion must have in society. Could Christians be good parents and raise honorable families? Would Christians be upright citizens. Verse 5 confirms this: if families are authentically Christian, then “the Word of God may be not be discredited.”

An apology is a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something, like a theory or a religious doctrine. It denotes a formal defense against an accusation about the authenticity of a teaching. In the first reading, the underlying reason for the list of virtues and the exhortation to become good examples in society is this: The best apology the Church had for its new doctrine was the integrity, decency, and morality of the lives of its converts. The result of a correct understanding of God is one’s exemplary moral lives. We could tell one’s faith by one’s behavior: You shall know them by their very fruits (Matthew 7, 16).

Our faith teaches us that we have been saved from ‘lawlessness’ and cleansed from sin. So that we become more eager to do what is right and just. Our salvation then is a radical change of life. It is a change from sin to a life of grace. Grace is a life in the Spirit. With grace, we have been empowered by God’s spirit so that we would be able to live a life of integrity and uprightness. Growth is a process. As we move in our lives and make decisions that make us grow into decent human beings, we are taught and trained by God. St. Ignatius describes his spiritual ‘training’ (v. 12) like “a schoolboy” being taught by God.

How does God train you to become a holy person? How do you learn the virtues of God from your experiences? Sometimes our most hurting experiences teach us to live uprightly. Sometimes our happiest moments confirm what values are important to us. Have you learned from all of your experiences? Or have you ignored these experiences that at an advanced age you still remain immature?

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