Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10
1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13
The cross is the most universal symbol of a Christian. The cross decorates our churches and our liturgical vestments. Blessings are bestowed with the sign of the cross. We bless ourselves with holy water as we make the sign of the cross. Perhaps we wear a cross on a chain around our neck, or have a cross hanging on a wall at home.
What would be another strong symbol to identify us as Christians? What if we wore a t-shirt or carried a banner that had a picture of a pitcher, a basin and a towel? I think that would be a great way to identify who we are, or at least what we strive to be.
Jesus tells us today that we are to be servants. "The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest." At the Last supper he showed us what he meant. He took a pitcher, a basin and a towel and washed his apostles’ feet. Then he told them (and us) to do the same. We are to reach out and serve those in need, esp. the poor and the outcast.
How about wearing a symbol of a heart to show who we are?
I suggest that we proclaim who we are by wearing a t-shirt or carrying a banner with a picture of an ear and a mouth? That might catch people off guard at first. But a picture of an ear and a mouth symbolize that as Christians we strive to do two things well: to listen attentively and to speak kindly.
Actually we need not wear any symbols at all. When we encounter others, they will experience in less than five minutes whether or not we are Christians. Do we serve them by the gift of total attention, striving to understand what they are going through? Do we serve them by using words that encourage, praise, support and affirm them. If we do, we won’t have the time or the desire to "exalt" ourselves, as Jesus warns against today, because the focus of our listening and speaking, the spotlight of our mind and heart is on the other. And they will know we are Christians by our love.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/