"For they preach but they do not practice."
In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples that "talk is cheap." He points out the conflict between the words and actions of some of the leaders of the people. Their words speak of good ideals, which we should all try to follow in our lives, but their actions are clearly counter to these positive ideals, and we should not use them as a model of the way we act. In this instruction, Jesus reminds us that we all can slip into the position of saying one thing and acting in discord to what we say.
St. Ignatius learned about this cognitive dissonance during his convalescence and early in his conversion. He passed this lesson down to the early Jesuits and to us. He knew we need not only to have the correct words and concepts, but our actions need to model our words ... we need to live our faith in all we do. Ignatius knew that this consistency between words and actions is difficult, but we are all called to make progress in our ongoing attempts to live as we speak.
St. Ignatius left us a tool to help us in our growth in this area. In the Examination of Conscience, he provides a daily exercise of reflection on our actions, so we might determine whether what we have - or have not - done in our ordinary lives reflects our faith. It is a simple exercise that allows us to see the goodness of God in our world, while we also see the ways we need to improve our actions to better reflect our words.
In this season of Lent, in this Year of Faith, we may all want to take some time to see how the ways our actions and reactions need to be improved. We need to remember that Saint Ignatius was known to do this examination of his own behavior on an almost hourly basis.
We need to remember that we are all going to fall a little short of living out our faith as fully as we're called to do, as fully as we might want to do. The important thing is that we make progress and not try to become perfect. In learning more about our own efforts and struggles to be more consistent with our faith, we can also learn to be more understanding of all people and the struggles we all share.
Today, let us reflect on some of the people who have gone before us, people we know who tried to preach the Gospel not only in their words, but more importantly with their actions.
We can remember that these people, like St. Paul, St. Ignatius and all the other Saints we know, used the way they treated others and the world to show people their faith. They strove not just to have the right words, as much as they worked to live what those words meant.
As we honestly and truthfully examine the way we live, let us resolve to strive to become better models of faith which more closely matches what we say and believe. In this way, our words will have the value our actions give them.
May God bless us all.
Have a blessed Lent.
- D. Highberger, S.J.
- P. Stark, S.J.