Lord Let My Light Shine
I remember my first summer vacation after my first year at Holy Cross seminary in Dunkirk, New York. I couldn’t wait to see a friend of mine, Holly Knight. We didn’t go to the same school but we spent a lot of time arguing religion. Holly was Anglican and eventually was ordained in the Anglican Church.
I couldn’t wait to see him because I’d taken a course in Apologetics – a course explaining the truth of the teaching of the Catholic Church and showing up the weaknesses of the teachings of other Christian churches and I was convinced that I could convince Holly that he must become a Roman Catholic. Needless to say my enthusiastic efforts were a flop.
For most people it really isn’t well thought out reasons that attract people to the Church. More often than not is it the lived example of ordinary people trying to be faithful to the teachings and example of Jesus that is the magnet.
In the second reading St. Peter tells the people; “in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
How often did the people to whom Peter was writing were questioned by family and friends, “ how could you do such a things, how could you turn your back of the traditions of your family and join up with this motley crew of Jews?
Most of the early converts to the Christian faith were attracted to the Christian community by the lived lives of the ordinary men and women who belonged to that community. In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that the men and women who were not Christians marveled at how these Christians loved one another. They became aware of the love and kindness, support and reverence that vitalized the life of the community and they wanted to be part of that community too. Theological or philosophical arguments had nothing to do with it, they were attracted to the community be seeing how members of the community inter-acted among themselves.
These early Christians, because they were so different were often maligned because of their good conduct in Christ. Neighbours couldn`t understand why they shared food and clothing with one another. They couldn`t understand their hospitality and care of the poor.
It is the same today. Men and women are drawn to the church by living examples of those who put flesh and blood to the teachings of Jesus, teaching that tells us share with those who have less, forgive those who have harmed us, be peace makers, work for social justice, welcome the stranger.
St. Paul described the early church as being made of men and women who had no power, no influence, no money but men and women who believed in the love of the crucified Christ for every one of them. Men and women who were filled with gratitude for such love, men and women so filled with gratitude that they wanted to follow Jesus and his way of doing things. Such a way of life was counter-cultural then as it is now and not always understood by those around us, but Jesus asks us to follow him and by living and loving as he did and so make a difference in the world.
That dying to ourselves, which sounds so dramatic, can be carried out quietly every day in our lives: when we put the needs of another ahead of our own; when we refrain from an angry outburst; when we reach out to those in need or become more merciful to those around us and those in our world whose desperate lives so urgently need our awareness and mercy.
There is a saying, ‘you may be the only bible people will ever read’. How we live our lives, how we treat other people, how we care for those who have less than we do, how we welcome the stranger, how we care for the homeless, how we relate to people of different faiths, cultures or lifestyles will let us know whether or not our good conduct gives witness to the Christ in whom we believe.
When we see the optics of Pope Francis, the way he relates to people, the way he wants to be with them as they are, his openness to others no matter what their life circumstances, his humility of lifestyle, surely people`s attitudes toward the church have changed. His good conduct in Christ has made a difference in the lives of many people both within the Church and outside it.
In this Eucharist we celebrate Christ’s great and unconditional love for each one of us. We pray that his love inspire us to live lives worthy of our calling and that we be examples of faith and love to inspire others to follow Christ.