Am I Attractive?

September 12, 2014

Pope Francis's homily from Thursday's daily Mass (Sept 11, 2014) was filled with gems that  all arise from his approach to Evangelization.  He likes to emphasize that the most effective approach is more about attraction than it is about trying to convince someone of the truth of the faith.

Jesus Christ is attractive!  He is Who we are all made for, the only One Who can give us the joy for which everyone pines.  As Jesus' disciples, we must reflect our Master; we must also be attractive.  But what does this mean?  How can I change the way I look?  People who met Blessed Teresa of Calcutta often remarked how attractive she was in person.  Now for any one who has seen pictures of her, the adjective "attractive" would not likely be the first that would come to mind.  However, attractiveness is not primarily a matter of superficial beauty.  Indeed, for someone with superficial beauty, if we come to know him and find that he is not a nice person, he tends to lose his attractiveness for us.

What then is attractiveness?  Many things do attract us to other people.  Superficial beauty is one but it is not the most compelling.  Rather, what attracts most profoundly is that which is most deeply beautiful; it is holiness.  Holiness is measured by the degree to which we have perfected ourselves in love.  Love is outward focused, it is an act of the will that desires and acts for the good of another person for his own sake.  This is why Francis says that the Christian life is not "navel gazing."  In fact, navel gazing is not attractive.  It turns people in upon themselves, makes them self-oriented and so leads to misery which is reflected in attitudes of bitterness, cynicism, and criticalness.

Holiness, other oriented-ness,  rather, results in personalities of joy and hope.  It is this manifestation of joy, of concern for others, for hope in the future that attracts people.  This is not Polyannaish optimism, but a visible manifestation of Christian faith in God's Providence, in love for Him and His creation, and in the hope that recognizes whatever happens, good or bad, in the end it will all work for the good.  Regardless of our superficial beauty, as creatures reflecting God's perfection we have an innate beauty that will show through when we manifest the love of Jesus Christ in outward expressions of love and joy.  Holiness, manifested through acts love and lives of joy, is what is attractive and this is what it will take for the New Evangelization to bear fruit.

Manifesting lives of joy will do two things.  It will help those who are in sin, meaning those who are inward turned (all of us to some degree) to discover the real misery of such a life's commitment to selfishness.  Habitual selfishness results in a life of misery because man is created for relationships of communion with others.  In one's habitual selfishness, he is inward turned and alone.  It is the sense of being all alone that brings about the experience of misery.

However, not only does the experience of the habitual joy of Christians help to uncover one's own misery, it also shows that there is another option.  Joy is what each and every person longs for and seeks.  Unfortunately, we are usually mistaken about what will bring us joy and this repeated mistakenness is what usually leads to our misery. It is the possibility of the authentic joy that others see in Christians that will show them the attractiveness of the Gospel, that is the attractiveness of Jesus Christ.  It is this personal experience of another option in life that will open those who think that they have dismissed Christianity as a viable option, to a willingness to reconsidering it.

So we Catholics need to ask ourselves: how attractive am I? Do I adequately witness to the joy of my life in Christ that would make Him compelling to others?  For more on this, see our tutorial article on Discipleship

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