Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Being A Religious Person

Last time I visited home, I had a funny conversation with my little sister, a sophomore in high school. I confided in her that I try to offer up a different day of the week for every member of our family. “I think you’re the most religious person I know,” she teased me.

My little sister and I
At the time, I shrugged this off as a silly remark. Of course I’m not the most religious person she knows. Just for starters, our parents are daily communicants, something I aspire to but have not yet achieved.

But over time, something else occurred to me. I may not be the most religious person my little sister knows. But when she and others know that I practice my faith, I represent to them what a religious person looks like and acts like.

That led me to another thought. What’s the popular stereotype of a religious person in our society? I thought of Frollo from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. I thought of the mom from Hairspray who screams “Devil child!” at her daughter for going out without permission. What ugly images! Pop culture often depicts religious people as loveless, joyless and judgmental.

Yet I know that religion, truly practiced, brings happiness, peace, true love and lasting joy. Blessed John Paul II said, “We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song.” Why doesn’t the culture seem to understand that? Instead, so many people think that “religious” means judgmental, legalistic, and unwelcoming.

And so, I concluded, I have a responsibility to those around me. If I’m the most religious person my little sister knows, then I should also be the most loving person she knows. I should try to be the kindest person she knows. I should be the most joyful person she knows, drawing her closer to the love of Christ.

Our faith is hard enough for people to accept without us presenting it in a grim and dour fashion. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, after all. If we have a God who is Love, and we have Him in our hearts, ought not all our words and actions to be a manifestation of that?

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