“How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?”
About 30 years ago I spoke at a Kiwanis club dinner. Essentially I spoke of the difference the Lord was making in my personal and professional life as a lawyer. I also spoke of the work Fr. Norm Douglas and I were doing in Heart to Heart Communications and its focus on the spirituality of everyday life, including our work.
After the dinner, an 18 year old young woman, a foreign exchange student named Christina from Latvia, came up and thanked me for my remarks. She was all smiles and animated—I was moved by her presence and asked her why she was thanking me, and why her excitement? “I love to hear about God!”
She was involved in a bible study group and was sharing her spirituality with other high schoolers and young adults—and she also wanted to be a lawyer one day, go back to Latvia, and help her country rebuild its government. Intuitively, Christina connected the work she wanted to do in the world with the God she wanted to serve. And she lifted me up!
No one has ever accused me of having beautiful feet—but in the words of Paul’s letter to the Romans, on that night “how beautiful were the feet of Larry the Lawyer, who brought the good news!” Christina renewed in me a commitment I had made to the Lord when God put on my heart, “Speak of me Larry, speak of the good news of Jesus Christ.”
I was walking this morning with a friend, a counselor who himself was marking over 30 years of sobriety. I asked him what the word “commitment” meant to him. He smiled and said that in his younger years the word had the connotation for him of being trapped. What if? So many doubts and uncertainties…. But my friend went on to say that the word “commitment” now means “Liberation” for him. His faithfulness to the spiritual disciplines of A.A. was liberating, freeing him from his powerlessness and self-destruction.
So what are we doing when we make our commitment as Dominicans, as associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace? Pondering this question, I noticed on the window sill my OPA block– reminding me to Be Peace, Build Peace, and Preach Peace. That’s what we Associates are committing ourselves to—being, building and preaching peace in a world which is becoming increasingly hostile, divisive, and hateful.
So what does that mean, practically, for each of us?
“Be Peace:” Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “above all else, guard the condition of your heart because everything you do flows from it.” What we think, feel, and believe expresses itself in the world in which we live and work and communicate. Our “preaching in the world” involves our interior life, what is in our heart. We might ask ourselves what has been disturbing our peace lately? What spiritual commitments might we make or renew in order to experience the peace of the Lord that is beyond all understanding—even in the midst of difficult circumstances?
“Build Peace.” We may think that Commitment is “another thing to do” in the midst of all that we are already doing. As a lawyer, and after experiencing quite a spiritual awakening in my life, I struggled with the question “What to do? What to do?” The Lord answered that question for me as I was reading Pope John XXIII’s Diary of a Soul. As a delegate to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, Angelo Roncalli often struggled with why he was there, what he should be doing. God broke through his questions with the response “ Do what you are doing.” As I read that, God also said to me, “Larry, do what you are doing.” Proclaim the Good News, build peace, Larry, as father, husband and Lawyer.”
The issue is not so much what we are doing as why and how we are doing it. “Bloom where you are planted.” The Lord worked in, through, and with Angelo Roncalli, as he did what he was doing on the spiritual journey toward the Papacy and sainthood.
Preach Peace. We are called to preach peace, to proclaim the good news according to the gifts we have been given and the circumstances of our daily lives. We can preach the good news of Jesus our Lord in any number of ways, from many different pulpits.
I believe it all starts with a willingness and courage to share our own stories of that time in our lives when we fell in love with God. As is inscribed on the tombstone of my dear mother: “Make of your life a prayer.”