In one gathering, a lay preacher asked the audience this question: “How would you know if someone is either a Christian, a Roman Catholic or a non-believer?”
The answer varies depending on one’s religious affiliation. A Christian stood up and said, “Sir, you will know if one is a Christian if he or she knows the exact book, chapter and verse in the Bible where the particular message of God is.”
The preacher replied, “Well, of course, Christians are more on the Word of God than the Catholics.”
Then a Roman Catholic stood up and said, “Brother, you will know if one is Catholic if he or she makes the sign of the cross.”
The preacher commended what the Roman Catholic said, but asked further, “Anybody else who would like to answer?”
He looked at the guy at the corner, who just kept quiet and smiled. By the way the guy is a non-believer.
The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 16, is telling us, “You will know them by their fruits.” The first Christians during the time of the Apostles were described as the most typical Christian community because of “how they love one another.” A distinguishing mark of a Christian, whether Roman Catholic or non-Roman Catholic, is that love for one another.
Jesus said: “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other.”
In our present time, how can we say we love one another when we find it hard to express our love for a particular person? Was it because of fear or feeling ashamed of? Why do we find it difficult to love a person? Why do we struggle within ourselves to love someone? is it because we don’t like the person’s physical appearance? What seems to be the problem?
Jesus knew that we can do it; we can love one another. That’s why He commanded us to do it. It’s a command, it is not a mere request nor suggestion. The commandment of Jesus to love is not only limited to the 11 apostles, but for all who would call themselves a disciple.
And how are we supposed to love one another? Christ gave us an example, by stretching out His both hands on the cross and from there I came up with a description of what love is — by losing oneself very extraordinarily.
Dear friends, another way of showing our love for one another is by joining a religious group, like being a lay apostolate of the Secular Oblates of the Holy Family. In general, lay members of Christian religious orders or institutes do not necessarily live in a religious community, such as a monastery or a convent or a religious house, and yet can participate in the good works of the institute.
Roman Catholic canon law states: “Associations whose members share in the spirit of some religious institute while in secular life lead an apostolic life, and strive for Christian perfection under the higher direction of the same institute are called third orders or some other appropriate name.”
Being a lay associate is similar to that of a Third Order of a mendicant Order like the Order of Preachers, popularly known as the Dominicans. Their two greatest saints are Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima, who both lived ascetic lives in their family homes and whose spiritual influence was great during their time.
Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Anglicanism all recognize Third Orders. Hence, any person whether Roman Catholic, Lutheran or Anglican may join a Third Order of their respective religious tradition. Greater love than this no one has: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).