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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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Anni Ink Slingers Motherhood Prayer Vocations

The Guiding Light of Mary: Inspiration for Deepening Our Relationship with Christ

The month of May is one of two months devoted to Mary, the mother of God. This past Lent, I found myself reflecting on the ways in which Mary endured her Son’s Passion – how she followed His final steps, and remained at His feet until it was time to accept His lifeless body into her arms, and prepare it for burial.

We then turned the page to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, and yet, my reflection on Mary didn’t end. Instead, it took a curious turn from how Mary stood by her Son, to what her reaction was when she was able to tangibly see Scripture fulfilled before her eyes – with the child she raised, risen from the dead!

Throughout Mary’s life, she maintained an unshakeable, unwavering faith. From a young age, to being a new mom, to becoming a seasoned woman, Mary continually committed all she had in fidelity to God. No matter how bleak the horizon looked for her, she trustingly held faith in her God’s plans, and His will for her future.

And, when her Divine Son appeared to her after His Resurrection, she had to have breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps not the kind of relief that would indicate she doubted her Son would rise; rather, a sigh of relief that, after all she had witnessed, her baby Boy was okay.

By her role as the mother of God, Mary became a guiding light for all of us to follow. In her example as a physical mother, we find the courage needed to help guide our own children to meeting God on a personal level. In her example at the mother who lost a Son, we find the strength to move forward in pursuing the will of God, even in our darkest moments. In her acceptance of being assigned the role of mother to the apostle John, we are clearly assured of the importance of spiritual motherhood, looking out for those who may not have been born of us, but who are nevertheless in need of the compassion and love our feminine genius offers.

Mary’s role as mother did not end with Jesus’ death on the cross, nor did it end upon Jesus’ Ascension. Instead, she continued to serve God in her vocation as mother long after her own flesh and blood no longer walked this earth. While apparitions of Mary are not required to be believed by Catholics, one could argue her vocation of motherhood took on an even greater role after her own death. She continues to include all of us as her children, centuries after she herself ceased walking this earth.

“To Jesus, through Mary,” is the reminder we are given when doing a Consecration to Jesus. We are reminded that Mary will lead us deeply, passionately, and unreservedly to her Son. We see her guiding light as early as Luke 1:38, when she tells the Archangel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” And, again, when she confides to Elizabeth in Luke 1:46-47, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” As early as those recorded statements are included in Scripture, we see Mary pointing back to our Lord God. We see her acceptance of God’s will, and her humility, which points not to her role, but rather, points us to her Son.

Throughout Scripture, she continually reminds us to do her Son’s will, while simultaneously affirming His role in our lives. With Mary’s light, illuminated throughout history, it is easy to see how her radiance magnifies Jesus and His role as Savior for humanity. She asks nothing of us for herself. Rather, she asks that we love her Son – the Boy she raised, the Man she knew, and the Savior in whom she loved and believed.

Therefore, this Month of Mary – May – let us follow her guiding light into a deeper understanding and relationship with the Joy of her life – Jesus.

Perhaps we can do that by meditating a little longer on the mysteries of the Rosary.

Perhaps we can do so by asking God to grant us more humility for ourselves – that we will let Jesus radiate through us, with no thought of our own gain.

Perhaps we can deepen our relationship with Christ by focusing on increasing the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity/love.

The ways we grow closer to Christ are really limitless, when we set our minds to doing so, and we commit to not allowing anything to derail our growth. Sometimes, we may just have to get a little creative. And, sometimes, we may have to ask for a little heavenly placed assistance, through Jesus’ mother, Mary.

How will you allow Mary to lead you closer to her Son this month?
How will you thank Mary for being a mother to us all?
What will help you better follow Mary’s guiding light in the month of May?

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Lectio Divina: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (2017)

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is one of those that has the option of a long form and a short form. I read the long form while spending time with this Gospel, although most of my reflection below ended up centering around the part that is encapsulated by the short form. I’m definitely curious to see what part of this Gospel passage speaks to you the most. So please share your thoughts or insights in the comments.

So let’s get ready. Be sure to have the Gospel passage in front of you, and here is an easy link: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. If you need a brief review of the steps for lectio divina you can find a nice description from the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Oblates website. Remember to read the Gospel reading before each of the next four sections below and take some time to reflect on the questions before reading my responses.

Help me, Lord, to hear what you want me to hear and may your Holy Spirit guide me to share what you want me to share. Amen.

READ

A word or phrase (or more) that caught your attention during your first reading of the passage. Mine included:

  • Great light
  • Repent
  • Followed him

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

The second half of Sunday’s Gospel (if you read the long form) is familiar and easy to focus your attention toward. But as I read this I kept going back to the first half. It seems simple: John is arrested, Jesus retreats to a different part of the country, and he begins his ministry there, in a somewhat backwoods, out of the way place. The prophecy from Isaiah kept drawing me in. I love the contrast of the darkness to the light. The people are in darkness, the land is overshadowed by death, and yet, they have seen a great light, light has arisen. The people here in Galilee seem to be in a wasteland, hopeless, surrounded by poverty. They are nothing but a tiny fishing village, unimportant in the eyes of most. Yet here is where Jesus comes to be the light that brings them hope. Jesus is the light. Are we surprised that he begins his ministry in a poor, unimportant place? You could say that he was just simply fulfilling the prophesy as told by Isaiah, but look back just a few weeks ago. What did we celebrate not too long ago in the Church calendar? Christmas! This King of Heaven and Earth was born in a lowly stable in the poorest of poor circumstances. It only makes sense that he would start his ministry in much the same way.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Thinking about Jesus beginning his ministry in a land that was poor and regarded as unimportant by most people, makes me think about those times when I am in a dark place. Sometimes when we are down about something or suffering from immense pain, whether physical or mental, or maybe grieving the loss of a loved one, we can often feel like we are trapped in darkness. Isaiah mentions the “people who sit in darkness,” and those people can be us at any time. When I think of Jesus beginning his ministry here it is a good reminder that he is always with us, even in the darkness. We may not always see it immediately, but he is there to be the light to bring us out of the darkness.

Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for always being the light in the darkness. Thank you for being the one who brought me out of the darkness during times of grief and suffering in my life. I pray that others will feel your presence and look to you when they face their own times of darkness.

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
Evangelization Ink Slingers Prayer Sacraments Shiela Vocations

On the 5th Day of Christmas

candle light

My true love gave to me….light.  On this 5th day of Christmas, I am challenged to seek the light that Christ gave us for Christmas. As we entered in to this year’s Christmas season, our nation faced great darkness and attacks on peace. Many families experienced a tenebrous Advent flowing with loss, loneliness, regret, and despair. Seeking the light, the joy of Christ, was unimaginable for some. These somber stories bleed into my life and dim my hope. At times, I find myself languishing in the murk. I recognize this when I realize that I have a scowl on my face while performing my daily tasks, being short with my children, and complaining to my husband. Which, let’s face it, can happen every day.

It is our human nature to do what we feel at the moment. We feel discouraged; we frown, hang our head low, or seclude ourselves and cut off communication. Or, we overindulge in food, alcohol, the internet, whining, complaining, working, exercising, or shopping. Whatever god we choose, we go to that altar and worship.

Christians know, intellectually, that nothing is impossible with God. We are also aware that we are targets of spiritual attacks because we have chosen to live this life.  We are, after all, His hands and feet. We may as well walk around with a target on our chest.  Therefore, to be the Body of Christ, we have to take deliberate action that propels us out of the natural world into the supernatural light of Christ. By actively participating in the life of Christ, we can illuminate the otherwise obscure joy that is a free gift for all.

We cannot do this alone and we don’t have to.  Through the mystery of the Incarnation, we have intimate access to our God. By becoming human, He brought together our corporeal and spiritual natures.  Before He completed His mission on earth, He left us portals to His Grace; the sacraments.  Through the sacraments, we can access the graces necessary to complete our mission. Begin with reconciliation which prepares you to worthily participate in Holy Communion. These two sacraments can switch on the supernatural light that will allow you to see beyond the gloom of the natural world. Then, with each moment, we can choose to be a light.

What do supernatural actions look like? Some examples include: Pray without ceasing. Verbally express gratitude for the simplest things in your life to a loved one. Refrain from gossip of any kind, including our national leaders and our pope. Act joyfully, even if the feeling eludes you. Give generously of your time, treasure, and talents until it hurts; in silence without fanfare or recognition.  Make daily sacrifices that remind you of your mission; not to be comfortable, but to be a light. Know your weaknesses. Name them and overcome them.

Beware. If we are not deliberate in our actions, we contribute to the gloom. Word by careless word, action by thoughtless action, we extinguish the glow and partake in the culpability for the evil in the world.

Be mindful.  Even amidst the shadow of gloom, we have ample reason to rejoice!  God is with us.  He has given us the gift of eternal life.  Rejoice!  light on oakville

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone.” Isaiah 9:1