By Susan Muto
Susan Muto is the executive director of the Epiphany Association and dean of the Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality. She is the author of Virtues: Your Christian Legacy.
The words of the Gospel are so laden with meaning that they invite continual reflection on what we have heard and read. We must dive beneath their surface significance to discover what is applicable to the unfolding of our own call, vocation, and avocation. These sacred utterances are carriers of hidden wisdom. They stir the heart of every receptive listener. They point to the impenetrable depths of divine transformation. They remind us that no amount of faith formation can bring our search to closure. We pass through pockets of light between long stretches of darkness.
The Spirit makes us grow more by faith than by sight. Each successive opening becomes an opportunity to articulate what our everyday life in family, Church, and society means in dialogue with the words of everlasting life disclosed to us with the assistance of the Spirit. The vast sea of this Revelation can never be poured in its mysterious totality into the narrow channels of our created minds. With or without understanding, all we can hope to say is that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
The ode to a capable wife in the Book of Proverbs (31:10–31) offers an unforgettable description of this virtue of loyalty. She evokes trust, does no harm, provides food for her household, opens her hands to the poor, manifests strength and dignity, does not eat the bread of idleness, and fears the Lord. Like a loyal friend, she is a joy forever. Here is one on whom we can rely, who will stand by us through thick and thin, one who will chart a steady course by working for our good both in our presence and in our absence (Matt 24:45–46).
Loyalty of this sort lessens the sting of betrayal we may have felt at one time or another. It silences our fear that fewer and fewer people in public and private life are to be trusted. Loyalty assures us that fidelity will prevail over falsehood and that friends like this are among the greatest gifts of God. It would be inconceivable for them to be disloyal in the face of vexing problems or tedious tasks. The support they offer is freely given and never fickle. Their word is golden; the veracity of their promises erases our doubts. Such loyalty is neither dependent on the level of one’s education nor on worldly standards of success like charm and cleverness. These attributes are no guarantee that a person will be loyal to us. What we like most are not appearances but generous hearts, not smooth talkers but trustworthy confidants.
Loyalty is like an eternal flame. Once enkindled by grace, it cannot be extinguished. It exudes a steady stream of reliability without fanfare or affectation. A loyal companion has no need to ruffle the feathers of egocentric control. If we fall down, he or she lifts us up; if we fail, kind words encourage us to try again. Whereas disloyalty leaves us feeling empty and perplexed, loyalty renews our strength and restores our faith in humankind.
In a swirling sea of individualistic competition, where we feel battered by duplicity and disloyalty, we need a steadfast rock to cling to. Every expression of loyalty we receive shows us that gains in grace outweigh the losses caused by vice. In the simplest of acts—a meal selflessly prepared and served; a phone call made at the exact moment we feel most alone; a repair so well done that an appliance we were about to discard can be used again—we know from experience that “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (Dan 11:32). The world will be a better place because of them.
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In Virtues: Your Christian Legacy, Susan Muto sets forth a path that makes virtue attainable. Find wisdom from the saints and Scripture to grow in virtue in: the Inner Life, Relational Life, Situational Life, and the Global Life.