In today’s world of instant communication, it seems almost impossible to keep something secret. satellite imagery and google maps allow people anywhere to “zoom in” and to see what is happening in your backyard. With cell-phone-cameras, something can happen in remote, rural America and then go “viral” on YOUTUBE within a matter of hours. So called investigative reporting probes into the person lives of public figures with no shame or regard for personal privacy.
And at the same time, we all know the need for a safe, secret place to share our most personal information and experiences. Our secrets can immobilize us and limit us. We need people who know the value of confidentiality and what it means to hold something in a “sacred trust”. Hopefully we all have one or two people to whom we can turn to help us carry what we consider to be a heavy burden or a pressing issue. Hopefully, too, when someone tells us something, when someone shares something very personal to them …. and they ask us to keep it to ourselves …. we know what this means and we are trustworthy.
With that said, let’s turn to today’s Gospel (Mark 1:40-45) and look at the story of the man who was healed of leprosy. After healing him, Jesus “warned the man sternly” and told him “to tell no one anything.” We know why Jesus did this — he did not want people coming to him for free bread, fish, and wine. Jesus did not want people to simply come to him because he had the power to heal. Jesus wanted people to come to him in faith and to make a commitment …. not just to get something. BUT, WHO OF US could really have kep this good news quiet? It just would not be possible.
First of all — people would notice the change. And secondly, the man would be so excited, he could not literally hold himself back. After living as an outcast, cut off from people — he was now free to interact and to socialize with others. After being excluded from polite company, he could not join family and friends and be part of the world again. After having to depend on the charity of others for even the basic need of food …. he could now return to the world of work and to earn — with dignity — his own keep.
When he was asked, “what happened to you?” …. do we really think he could have said … wow, I don’t know! I just woke up this morning and I was healed!! Not a chance! This was just too much to keep quiet.
So — let’s use this story to reflect on how we share our faith — or in what ways do we witness to our faith?
Tim Tebow — the quarterback of the Denver Broncos — has brought the issue of public displays of faith into national discsussions. His practice of bending one knee and raising his arm to his forehead has actually been deemed “Tebowing” and public immitations have been seen around the world. Some have praised him for his courage and devotion — others have criticized him. It doesn’t bother me — because I see him as sincere and his display of faith seems to be genuine — and not for the purpose of focusing on himself.
We know what St. Paul says about “noisy gongs and clanging symbols” i.e. those who show their faith in public — but have not love in their hearts. It is worth NOTHING.
Our faith after all … we are told … is not to be put under a bushel basket and hidden. It is to be like salt that flavors food and light that leads us through darkness.
What do you think about public displays of faith? How about prayer before a meal in a restaurant? How about a prayer before beginning a car trip? How do you feel when someone says, “I owe it all to God” or “Praise and honor to God to whom all glory belongs!” Are you comfortable or uncomfortable with this?
We have seen this week that a Presidential decision about providing birth control as part of insurance coverage as invoked cries against religious liberty … and people across the country have weighed in — letters are being written, phone calls made, emails sent. People are expressing their views. Certainly, this is one way to witness to our faith.
Some people show their faith with bumper stickers and messages about scripture. Surely, this is another public display of faith. There is nothing wrong with this.
In today’s second reading (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1) St. Paul gives a few more examples:
> do everything for the glory of God — whether you eat or drink — or whatever you do. In other words, do what we do for the good of others, for the building of God’s kingdom. do not do ANYTHING merely for self glory or self gratification. Unselfish doing, unselfish acting, unselfish service is a witness to our faith. Simply going to the nursing home to visit parishioners as an extension of our faith community — is a public witness to faith. Supporting a charity — not for the tax benefit alone — but because of need is a witness to faith.
> avoid giving offense — being attentive to what we say and how we say it … do not belittle anyone. do not criticize the motivation of another — walking away from gossip — not spreading hurtful news … these are witnesses to faith to.
> not seeking my benefit but that of the many — allowing the good and the need of the family to outweigh my own desires and wants … allowing mass times and service times to fit the community need and not just my own personal schedule or preference …realizing that even if I do not get my way, I have not been left out … helping in community cleanup efforts even if it does not improve MY STREET OR NEIGHBORHOOD …. this is witness to faith.
Too much today is said about the world being too secular … if it is, then it is not the fault of politicians … it is the fault of people of faith. If our faith is just for show … it will not last and it will not benefit anyone.
Good trees bear good fruit … in other words, if faith is in our hearts and love is our motivation, we become good and the good will be obvious around us.
Some things just are not meant to kept secret — faith is one of them!