Bearing False Witness

I began my career in ministry as a Confirmation Coordinator. I was tasked with ensuring all 200 of the candidates at my parish were properly prepared – knew their 7 Sacraments, 10 Commandments, 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit, 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit, and what Confirmation was and wasn’t (graduation). When I started I knew 2 of those 5, I’d never memorized the gifts or fruits, and beyond the half-a-class discussion about Confirmation I’d had in my Canon Law – Sacraments class, I’d never considered what Confirmation really was, even being a Confirmed Catholic.

So I set out to develop a curriculum for our Confirmation candidates to ensure they knew the basics of the faith. One semester we discussed each of the Ten Commandments during a session. What was being asked of them by the Lord, why it was important, and what it really meant for a middle schooler. I had games, activities, discussion questions, and prayers to help guide us that I got from a variety of resources.

Then we got to the 8th Commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness. I’d always been taught this was about lying. That “Thou shalt not lie” was basically a synonym, but there’s more to it. Lying is wrong because of what’s being asked of us in this commandment, but there’s more to it.

“Bearing False Witness” digs deeper into how we live our lives. It’s more than just not telling “white lies” or bigger lies. It’s about how we witness to our salvation, how we declare the love of Christ to the world, how we talk about the faith.

I was reminded of this when I read this editorial from America Magazine. Here’s the paragraph that got me thinking:

But what if there is a different way to look at the decline of religious practice in the United States? Have the “nones” consciously rejected religion, or have religious institutions failed to involve them and respond to their needs? Do they lack belief in God, or do they no longer see the church as representing the God they believe in? Has a mixture of all of these factors gotten us to where we are today, with both society and the church sharing some responsibility?

America Magazine Editors January 13, 2022

When I think about the people in my life who no longer find the Church relevant (most of my family, some of my dearest friends and co-workers), I can’t help but reflect on my own witnessing. Have I been a good witness to the faith? Am I sharing about how the Lord has changed my life in a way that invites them to learn more? Do I live in a way that people know I’m a Christian? Do they know I love the Lord by the way I show them love? Do my words witness to the Lord – no matter the subject – or are they condemning, destructive, or demeaning?

We know there are few things we have control of in this life. I’ve heard it said (and I’m sure you have too) that we can control 3 things: Actions, Reactions, and Mindset. So when I consider why people have left the Church, I cannot do anything about the decisions they’ve made, only if I’ve done anything to solidify their opinions one way or another. Am I the reason someone has looked at the Church and said, “Well, she goes to church every Sunday, says she’s trying to be holy, but also she’s cheated at work, gossiped and been judgmental, and proved herself to be an awful friend.”

When we consider our need to evangelize, the declining number of people attending Mass on a weekly basis, and the potential closure and merging of churches, we can’t control much – but we can control how we witness to the Lord. I’ll be reflecting on my own witness as I prepare for Lent, will you join me?

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