Most of us have heard the modern-day proverb “more is caught then taught” or “actions speak louder than words”. You may have also heard an admonition attributed to St. Francis, “ preach the gospel…use words if necessary.”
There is certainly a lot of truth in these reminders. How we act can affirm what we say or it can undermine what we say. I’ve been convicted by these thoughts many times over my life when my actions just did not measure up to the standard of the gospel.
My wife Judy has often recalled seeing her dad asleep with the rosary in his hands after a long day of work. This example of faithfulness has lived on long after his passing. Emmett Kaelin “talked the talk, but he also walked the walk”.
While are actions do speak louder than words; nevertheless, words are important. Without an explanation, our good deeds can be attributed to “good genes” or “just being a nice guy”, or “he just won the lottery, no wonder he bought me a donut and coffee”. Scripture reminds us to “always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1Peter 3:15)
We need to be ready to attribute any praise we receive for our good actions to the Lord. To God be the glory for the good we do. Without the Lord’s care and concern and mercy and forgiveness … without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, my good deeds would be “few and far between”, and probably not so good.
Yet how do we deflect the praise we may receive for “good actions” to the Lord without sounding like a rote computer recording …”your call is important to us, stay on the line and we’ll get right back to you… and 20 minutes later, “your call is important to us, stay on the line and we’ll get right back to you…”
How do you effectively respond when someone notices your good works? Probably the first few times just smile and say thank you. If your good works continue to get noticed, perhaps you can then begin to bring God into the conversation…. perhaps mentioning that I didn’t always respond that way in the past, until I had an encounter with the Lord…” We should ask the Holy Spirit to “help us make a good response to those who notices the hope in us”. Every situation is unique, so each response will need to be unique.
We should consider praying the prayer that Pope John Paul’s father taught him to say each morning, “ O Holy Spirit, love of the Father & Son, inspire me in how to think, what to say, how to speak, when to be silent, how to act, what to do…..”
And may the Holy Spirit help us to “walk the walk and talk the talk”. If we do, more and more of our family and friends and neighbors will have new opportunities to meet our wonderful savior. And that is very good news.