‘‘I hope you don’t mind if I go braggin’ on Jesus.” That’s what Ron, a dynamic college campus minister from Arkansas, said. I have to say it was refreshing to hear that kind of talk again. I love living and working in a very Catholic community. But now and again, it’s a good thing to stretch out a bit, and hear the words of Christian discipleship set to another tune or even just played in another key. Ron’s Assemblies of God background, and his very southern manner made it easy to hear the Gospel in a new way.
A great deal of what Ron spoke about involved what God had done in his life. Graces of all sorts abounded in his stories. A healthy son born three months early, the gift of a new house, and the call to bring Christ to university students in South Africa. He even recounted how he had survived being hit by a truck just a little over a year ago. But none of it was really about Ron. It was all about Jesus. “What an amazing God we have,” he said. At the climax of nearly every story Ron told-- almost like the chorus of a hymn--he’d say, “But the real Jesus showed up.”
In truth, the Real Jesus shows up in our lives all the time. But not very many of us seem to talk about it. I’m not sure whether that’s because we think telling about what God has done for us is too Protestant or too personal. We’re not comfortable “braggin’ on Jesus.” Most of us shy away from anything that might challenge or offend whoever may be listening. Unfortunately, that often means that we avoid giving people what they really need, what they’re looking for whether they know it or not.
I’ll readily admit that the style of television evangelists may not be quite what we want to imitate. But the content of what believers in other Christian traditions say may be something we Catholics could learn from. The funny thing is that all we’d really need to do is imitate Mary.
The Magnificat isn’t anything other than Mary’s “braggin’ on God.” Listen to her words: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has looked with compassion on my lowliness. All generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his Name.” (Lk 1: 46-49) Mary’s words rise in song from the prose that surrounds them. She sings God’s praises, proclaiming his greatness, his power, his mercy, and his compassion towards the poor. And she doesn’t do this in the privacy of her own Nazareth home. Mary goes “with haste,” (as Luke writes), to the hill country of Judea, to the house of Zechariah. In the Spirit-filled meeting between herself and Elizabeth, what is shared is joy in the works of God, and even more, joy in God himself.
The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh 8:10). If we find it hard to deal with life, if we feel down or overwhelmed or worried, we can find the consolation we need in recounting the greatness and the faithfulness of God. The best thing is that we don’t have to exaggerate when we talk about God. He truly is wonderful. All we have to do is stop long enough to look at what he has done for us. And if we somehow forget, we can always look to the Scriptures. The Bible is full of “braggin’ on God.”
Something powerful happens when people share what God has done for them. Faith begins to blossom. What I mean is that people begin to get the idea that they can trust God, that he is worthy of their trust. Counting blessings is good, but counting on the One who blesses is better. What God has done ultimately leads us to who God is. And when that happens, we find a whole lot to brag about.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.