"At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
In Australia we're not very sympathetic of tall poppies, we tend to cut them down. Bragging, showboating, skiting: none of it sits well with us. Should we know someone who excels we tend to cut them down, pay them out or give them some form of grief over it. Tall poppy syndrome is part and parcel of Australian culture.
I learnt this pretty early on in school: don't stand out. That rule keeps you out of trouble in the school yard, but it makes faith pretty difficult. I perfected the art of looking bored and disinterested during Sunday Mass, just in case anyone else from school was watching. The problem with focusing so hard on the positioning of my facial muscles in the shape of a frown meant that I missed most of what was going on. I even avoided the monthly youth Mass just in case I was asked to help out. It was safer for my rep (and any chances I had of ever having a girlfriend) to just fit in.
So when I read Jesus' words, you can see why I think he's a bit full of himself. I mean c'mon Jesus, you multiplied wine, you walked on water, you fed five thousand, you healed lepers; do you really need to brag about how great you were? He had to, because the people were asking for a sign. Apparently multiplying wine, walking on water, feeding five thousand and healing lepers wasn't definitive enough.
My point is this: actions aren't enough. Yeah, actions speak louder than words; but actions with words speak louder than actions speak louder than words (did you follow all that?) As Christians we often drop that line about "preaching the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words". As I once heard a wise man say: words are necessary. Not using words is a cop out, because it means we can do the "God thing" without drawing attention to ourselves, without engaging the world.
Jesus calls himself "greater than Jonah" not to brag, but because his signs alone weren't enough for the people. They didn't get it, they needed interpretation. That's because his signs were counter-cultural and challenging and the people needed to be told what they meant. Actions need words, they need explanation and reasoning. That might mean sticking your neck out a little bit, because the world today doesn't get the Gospel. It's all well and good to act rightly and justly, but if you don't tell people why than they'll never understand why.
I'm not saying we need to stand on milk crates in the middle of the street proclaiming the Gospel, or to brag about how good and holy we are; but there are always opportunities to share our love, faith and hope. When someone asks what you did on the weekend, say that you went to Church. If someone asks you why you're so happy, say that your life is blessed. To quote Fr Morgan Batt: "Don't miss an opportunity to evangelise!"
I lived in a discernment house for a while, and throughout the house there were signs blu-tacked on to the walls with phrases and words of wisdom. I can't remember exactly where in the house it was, but one sign read:
"Why fit in when you were made to stand out?"
I know it's tempting for me to let my actions speak about the type of man I am, because they do. But if I don't ever say why I act the way I do, then no one will know I do it for Christ. Our history is part of his-story, let our actions speak that.