If you’ve ever watched television coverage of major sports events, you will probably have noticed that large companies and businesses are willing to pay large sums of money simply to have their name or logo on the sporting attire of a sport celebrity—all because it is believed to be a very effective means of advertising. Accordingly, when such a celebrity becomes involved in any major kind of scandal or controversy, these same companies will withdraw their endorsements of the now discredited star.
Now, although God doesn’t advertise, God certainly has a long history of using human persons as his mouthpiece in revealing his true identity and plan for humankind—the ancient prophets being an obvious example. Affirming this practice, Jesus confirms that the roles of the prophets are continued in the Scribes and Pharisees who have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Jesus, too, will send out his disciples to preach the gospel and bring his salvation to the ends of the earth—reminding them that whoever listens to you, listens to me.
But, as with the Scribes and Pharisees who preach but do not practice, those Christ calls to evangelize the world can sometimes be counter-witnesses to the truth they proclaim—our currently scandal-ridden church is ample proof of this. And it takes significant faith and maturity to observe Christ’s injunction: do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. Instead, many become disillusioned with the church and simply abandon her to her fate.
However, lest we see this problem as one concerning bishops, priests, and other church leaders, we need to remind ourselves that we too are implicated in this problem. This is especially true of monks and nuns whose black and white habits might be said to be God’s logo, alerting the public that we represent God and his church in unique way. In addition, it is not only the general public or those who visit our monastery who are impacted if we preach but do not practice; for we are also affecting one another for good or ill—building a brother up, or tearing him down.
Fortunately, affecting others for their good doesn’t demand sanctity or utter perfection; instead, it calls for that sincere humility in which the greatest is the servant of the other. From this humility flows the compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and love, that serve as the most eloquent witness to the true nature of God (who is Love) and what he intends his church to be—a refuge for sinners and that privileged locus of healing and salvation. And thus humility may be said to be God’s logo stamped on the hearts of his true children. And it is these humble little ones—keenly aware of their sinfulness and need of mercy—whom God endorses and whose humility opens their heart and allows the God dwelling therein to shine forth and reveal all the wonder and beauty his true face—the face we all long to gaze upon.