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Current Events Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

Becoming Salt and Light

At the beginning of the pandemic last year, there was a beautiful transition in our world from a “me” society to a “we” society. It was amazing to watch as people began to think outside of themselves and instead worried about others. True love and concern for neighbor ran rampant throughout our families, our cities, our countries- our world. Unfortunately, as the pandemic persisted and people began to feel weary of lockdowns, food shortages, masks, and being separated from those they loved, their patience with one another became noticeably short. Where salt and light surrounded us at one point, it now seems as if we struggle to be decent to one another again. As we continue to fight our way through the lingering effects and damage the lockdown caused, we may wonder how we can recapture this spirit that once infected everyone around us.

HOW ARE WE CALLED?

In Matthew’s Gospel we read, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.” (Matt 5:13-16)

SALT

Christians are called to live our faith in a way that glorifies the Lord. Everything we say and do should lead others to God. Christ tells us in Matthew’s Gospel that we are the salt of the earth. Salt is one of the most important (if not the most important!) minerals for civilization. Historically it has been used for preservation, healing, and even as currency. Our bodies not only crave it, but need it to function properly. Wars have been fought, friendships have been made, civilizations built, and religious customs have flourished all because of salt. When salt is so vital, it’s no wonder that Christ would call His followers the salt of the earth!

As the salt of the earth, we are called to “flavor” the world with Christ. What we say, what we do, and who we are should all glorify God and inspire others to seek out the Lord. Our “saltiness” is vital to making sure that God’s presence is felt by others. Of course being “salty” in today’s terms means something completely different than what Christ calls us to be. Often it is easier to be “salty” than to be the “salt of the earth” and yet God still calls us to the task.

LIGHT

With this call to be the “salt of the earth”, Christ also calls us to be the “light of the world”. He tells us that we are not to hide the light which burns within us and which reflects God’s love and life under a bushel basket. I would venture to say that in today’s world we have many “bushel baskets” under which we hide His light. Perhaps we are embarrassed to share our faith.  Maybe we worry about persecution, ridicule, or rejection. It might be that we think we are not knowledgeable enough or even faithful enough to spread our faith. Maybe the timing is never right or we simply want to keep our faith private.

Whatever our reasons for hiding Christ’s light, we must come to realize that as Christians we are not just called but are expected to shine His light brightly for all to see. Christ’s light which lives inside of us is not simply for our own benefit, but instead is meant to “shine before others” so that they have a clear path to God through us!

ANSWERING THE CALL- BECOMING SALT AND LIGHT

What does it take to become salt and light? While we know that our good deeds are not what get us to heaven, we do know that God calls us to live out our faith through doing good works. These acts of love and hope help others to see our Christian faith being fully lived out as God has asked us. Christ modeled this life for us. He was a man of action. He fed the hungry, taught the masses, healed the sick, forgave the sinner, He died upon a cross, and rose from the dead. His actions were vital to His ministry. Likewise, our actions are vital to making Christ known and felt in the world. If we are to call ourselves Christians then we must be heavily involved in doing good works.

At the beginning of the pandemic we saw that “good works” became the norm for most people. People rushed to help one another to secure food, medicine, or other needs. These good works were not just corporal (taking care of one another’s physical needs), which is sometimes the easier work to do. They also encompassed the spiritual works of mercy as well. We saw people extend kindness, mercy, forgiveness and openness despite differences in political ideology, religious practices, economic status, or any other qualifier. People were comforting others in their sorrow, counseling them in their doubt, and praying like crazy for one another. Life was no longer “us” versus “them”; it was simply “us”.

This is what God desires for His people. He wants us to be united as one and He knows that the fastest way to achieve this is through good works. When we stop fighting and start loving one another it follows that God’s love and goodness can be more readily seen and felt by others.

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

It is true that the pandemic has worn many of us down. It has broken spirits and for some contributed to hatefulness and anger towards others. There are still many people doing good in the world, but the last year and a half has also hardened many hearts that were open and giving at the beginning of the lockdown. If we are to follow Christ’s call to be salt and light in the world, we can’t allow our own hearts to be hardened by the overwhelming distress the virus and the lockdown have caused us. Instead we must continue to look out for the needs of others. We must attend to both the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors even when it is difficult.

The pandemic took so much away from all of us… but it can never take away Christ’s light shining through us. Only we can hide it away. God tells us that He desires good and holy work from us. Through these good works His light shines brightly and draws others into a relationship with Him. If we want to see a change in our world, if we want peace, we must be the salt and light that Christ has called us to be. By living out our Christian faith in love and good deeds, we can lead others to Him- the One who brings ultimate peace and healing.

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Lectio Divina: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2017)

God is amazing! On Wednesday when I picked up my kids from their school (a Christian school, not Catholic) I asked them what their new memory verse was this week. They couldn’t remember all of it (they are only 5) but the part they remembered was “You are the light of the world.” I knew immediately which verse it likely was and once we got home I looked it up and sure enough, it comes straight from this Sunday’s Gospel! How perfect. I was able to talk to them a little about the verse before they got distracted and ran off to play.

I love it when things coincide like that. We’ll review this a few times over the next few days and talk about it more and I hope to see them recognize it at Mass on Sunday. That’s also one of the reasons I love doing these lectio divina reflections every couple weeks or so. It’s so nice to have time to read, pray with the text, listen to God’s voice speaking to me through the text, responding back to God, and really resting in the words of the Gospel. And then, to have that experience in my head when I go to Mass and hear the Gospel proclaimed from the ambo really helps connect me to the Word. I hope you also get something out of this as well.

If this is your first time here, we will be reading and praying with the Gospel passage for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (click the link to get to the text). Have it open as you read along below and I encourage you to follow the steps of lectio divina yourself before reading my own responses to my headings below. This is prayer time for you as well, not just you reading my reflections. If you need a quick review of the lectio divina steps, I recommend this brief explanation from the Archabbey of St. Meinrad.

Don’t forget, I’d love to hear some of your own thoughts (what caught your attention, what you feel God is saying to you, etc.) in the comments below.

READ

  • Must shine before others
  • See your good deeds

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

Reading this passage again and again, the word “must” keeps pestering me. I don’t have a choice–that’s what God is telling me. As a person of faith it is imperative, necessary, my duty to bring Christ’s light to the world. But how do I do this?

There are some obvious answers to this, like volunteering in my community by serving at a local soup kitchen or helping at a Habitat for Humanity build or volunteering at a local pregnancy help center. All these things are great ways to be a light in the world. But I’m at a point right now in my life when doing these kinds of things is really difficult. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I could still do. Not at all!

There are numerous ways to shine our light before others. This has actually been on my mind some lately and I’ve been thinking more about how to get to know my neighbors better, at the very least being the friendly neighbor that smiles and waves in passing as we are all going about our days. Remaining calm and joyful in my vocation, especially out in public. You know those days when you have to run into the grocery store, the kids are hungry, and the toddler is throwing a tantrum in the grocery cart because you didn’t get the cart that he wanted? (Yep, this actually happened recently.) Keeping your cool and just getting the job done could be an amazing witness to someone. I try to always keep a smile on my face and not get overly frustrated with the kids as I’m shuffling them through stores or the library or the doctor’s office. I would hate for someone to see me flustered and think, “Yep, that’s why I’m not having kids” or “Wow, glad we are ‘done’!” I don’t pretend it’s easy, and we all know it’s not, but I can suffer through the trying times and still remain joyful in the vocation with which God has blessed me. I think it’s also important to realize that our families are also people that would benefit from us shining Christ’s light before them. We can’t forget them in all this. How we serve our husbands (or wives), how we treat them, and the respect we show them are all ways we are witnesses of Christ’s love. I have to remember that how I discipline my children should also be done with the love of Christ. My witness to them in how I act around them, how I train them up in the faith, how I model the faith for them, and how I show love, affection, and discipline are all extremely important to their own understanding of how God loves us. This might be the hardest one of all!

God has a lot to say to me in this passage, and it’s almost all encapsulated in the very last sentence. I feel like God has mandated a very difficult task to us: be a light to the world, let other’s see your good deeds, and then they, too, will glorify God. That’s a pretty huge responsibility! I feel like I have a lot of work to do to be a better light to those I encounter on a daily basis.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

“O God, how can you trust me with so much!” Seriously, this is my initial reaction. But really, I just want to pray for guidance and for strength to be able to live up to this expectation. I think this is one of the reasons I need to go to adoration every week, I need his graces to help power me through the week. It’s also why I probably need to go to confession more often, I need those graces too.

What I really want to say to God is, “Thank you for bringing me back into the fold of the Church and for the precious gift of my family and my vocation. Give me the strength and wisdom to be a worthy light in this suffering world so that other’s may be led to glorify you in all they say and do as well.”

REST

Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.

YOUR TURN

What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Categories
Amelia Christmas Faith Formation Feast Days Holy Days of Obligation Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Saints

“The Gentiles shall walk in Thy light, and kings in the brightness of Thy rising.”

Have you ever heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”?  In it, the gifts get more extravagant as the days of Christmas wear on, culminating in a menagerie of musicians, dancing ladies, and a whole lot of birds swimming or hanging out in pear trees.   It is slightly ridiculous; however, it illustrates the fact that Christmas was not always a one day affair, celebrated by singing, shopping, and feting for more than a month before the day and then tossed out on the curb with our torn-up wrapping paper and dead trees to make room for New Year’s sparkling festivities.   In fact, the celebration of Christmas lasted for twelve days.  It began on Christmas and ended on the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord on January 6 – an ancient feast (3rd century in the East) which predates the feast of Christmas by a few centuries and was tied to the Nativity and the Baptism of our Lord.

The season before Christmas is called Advent.  We spend this season in prayer, waiting in darkness, preparing our hearts and souls for the coming of the Light of the World.  At Christmas, this Light shines forth and we celebrate the much longed-for Messiah’s birth; however, in gazing at the crèche we realize that this light was only witnessed by His Mother Mary, Joseph, and some shepherds.  It is at the Epiphany that the Light shines beyond this small family circle, beyond the chosen few, to the ends of the earth.  The Three Wise Men represent the Gentiles, those grafted onto the vine.  Epiphany comes from epiphania – to show or make known.  It is the manifestation of the God-Man to the world, for Christ came for the world in its entirety.  Christmas is when we celebrate Christ’s humanity, but Epiphany is when we celebrate his divinity.

Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising.

-Isaiah 60:1-3

 

My family has always celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany.  I was born in Puerto Rico, where “Los Reyes Magos” visit us on the evening of January 5 and leave us presents under our beds.  We moved to Florida when I was little, and when these kingly visitors brought us gifts once a year,  their camels always left a mess when they ate the “straw” (grass) we had torn or cut from our yard the night before and placed in a shoebox in anticipation of their visit.  They always fascinated me more than did Santa Claus, who, with his furry suit and hat, seemed to belong to those from the Frozen North, which to me meant anywhere north of St. Augustine, Florida.  The Magi came from a warm climate; they knew how to dress for the heat.  They were too dignified to pop down a chimney, whatever that was; instead, they came through the keyhole.    These royal visitors brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the King of Kings – exotic and expensive gifts, so you knew they had good taste.  I looked forward to their day every year, not only because it meant more presents and what kid wouldn’t like that?  I looked forward to their visit for another reason: They were at Bethlehem.  They had seen the Christ-Child in the arms of His mother and had knelt in worship.

I am no longer a child, but I still look forward to this day with child-like wonder.   I help my children to set the three figures of the Magi throughout the house, traveling slowly toward the crèche as their day approaches.  I tell them how the word Magi, in Greek magoi, comes from the Latin word meaning “sage.”  These wise men were astrologers who read the stars and, upon seeing a star rising in the East they recognized it was a sign that a great King had been born.

 

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Gospel of Matthew)

 

What made them wise was not that they saw the star, but that they followed its light on a difficult journey.  To Bethlehem.  To Christ.

 

We will feast on this day, and I will again tell my children that Melchior (meaning King City) brought Jesus gold, a present fit for a king; Caspar (meaning Master-of-Treasure) brought Him frankincense, a resin used to make the incense used in religious rituals, in homage to His divine nature; and Balthazar (Protect-the-King) brought to Him myrrh, a resin used in embalming bodies, prefiguring the death of the Son of Man.  I will tell them that these gifts also symbolize something greater: gold for the adoration (love) due our Lord, frankincense for prayer and the worship we owe Him, and myrrh for the redemptive value of pain and suffering.  Then, we will end our festivities by blessing our house, drawing the cross of salvation above the door, together with the year and the initials of the three wise men (C+M+B), which can also be interpreted to mean Christus Mansionem Benedicat(May Christ bless this house), written in blessed chalk:

 

20 C+M+B 12

The Feast of the Epiphany is a sign of the Universal Church.  It is a reminder that we, as Christians, are called not only to follow the Light wherever He may lead, but also to be a light to others along the way.  The Magi followed the star to the King, bringing the most precious gifts they had to offer.  I challenge you to bring your precious gifts to Jesus and to share them with the world to the Glory of God.

Merry Christmas!