Mahatma Gandhi once told a Christian friend, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” In a similar vein, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said that if he saw more redeemed people he might be more inclined to believe in their Redeemer.
What a sobering reflection of the witness of the Church in their day! Neither Gandhi nor Nietzsche saw enough believers’ lights shining to convince them that the gospel message really does have the power to change people’s lives. That’s the challenge of today’s Gospel reading: to show the joy, the love, and the peace of Jesus to people like Gandhi and Nietzsche. It’s the challenge for each of us to live like “our Christ” and to show the world just how distinctive and fulfilling a redeemed life can be.
Here’s a true story: Jim, a devout Catholic, moved into a home next door to a wealthy Muslim family. They enjoyed a friendly and cordial relationship. Over the course of the next year, the Muslim family’s business imploded, and they had to declare bankruptcy. They were living in the house, waiting to be evicted, with little food or money. Sadly, all of their friends had abandoned them.
But Jim and his wife acted differently. They emptied their refrigerator and pantry and gave as much as they could to their struggling neighbors. They also loaned them money. They continued doing this for nearly a year, until things turned around, and the family gradually dug their way out of bankruptcy.
As moving as this story is, here is the best part: the family became Christians—all because of the love of Jim and his wife.