I have often preached that during Advent we must learn to always point to Jesus Christ through our words but primarily through our deeds. This is what John the Baptist and what so many good and holy men and women do everyday. We are called through our lives to make straight the paths of the Lord, to help prepare in the hearts of others the way of the Lord. People should see in us conduits, if you will, to growing closer to Christ, to getting to know Christ. We should be living examples and witnesses of the glory that is to come.
This past Wednesday, Pope Francis told a story that really moved me. It was about an elderly missionary nun that he met during his trip last weekend to the Central African Republic. Let's let the Holy Father tell the story:
At a certain moment, I met a Sister at Bangui who was Italian. One could see she was elderly: “How old are you?” I asked. “81” – “But not so much, two [years] older than me.” This sister was there since she was 23-24 years old: her whole life! And, like her, so many others. She was with a little girl. And the girl said to her in Italian: “Grandmother.” And the sister said to me: “But I, in fact, am not from here, but from the neighboring country, Congo, but I came in a canoe with this girl.” So the missionaries are courageous. “And what do you do, Sister?” “I am a nurse, but then I studied a bit here and became an obstetrician and I made 3,280 children be born,” she said to me. A whole life for life, for the life of others...this sister said to me that Muslim women go to them because they know that the sisters are good nurses and that they look after one well, and they do not engage in catechesis to convert them! They give witness then, they catechize anyone who so wishes. But witness: this is the great heroic missionary work of the Church. To proclaim Jesus Christ with one’s life!
Called to proclaim Christ with our lives! How many of us do that? How many of us are as courageous as this religious sister to witness in a place that is hostile to Christians? We have it easy. We don't face those same hostilities, yet we sometime cower from just giving a nice Christian smile to a stranger. One of great things that strikes me from this story from the Pope is the fact that the sisters minister to Muslim women without proselytizing, without overtly mentioning Jesus Christ. They proclaim Christ with their witness. They point others to Christ with their service, their ministry to all peoples. This is what we must be during this Advent season: witnesses! We must witness to the presence of Christ in our lives. We must witness that we ourselves are preparing our hearts for the coming of the Messiah. We must witness that as Christians we are a joyful people, ready to serve all, ready to explain our faith to anyone who would ask. This is how we prepare a way for the Lord. This is how we make straight his paths. May we follow the example of this sister who ministers in relative obscurity in the Congo. If we witness in the same way and with the same love then indeed "all flesh shall see the salvation of our God."