Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time

Hebrews 10:19-25
Psalm 24
Mark 4:21-25

REFLECTION: "Jesus is the Measure"

We live today in a world with competing systems of spirituality. Each one has its own claims, its own priorities, its own distinctive aims. In that respect, Christianity is no different. 

At the same time, Christianity makes a specific claim that no other faith makes. To paraphrase Jesus' own words, Christianity teaches that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that nobody can come to the Father except through him. 

This means that no other spiritual tradition, no matter how lovely or moving, is capable of serving as a vehicle for the atoning power of Jesus Christ. Christianity is unique.

To be sure, our faith shares some of the same practices as other belief systems. We worship. We meditate. We read sacred writings. We revere those who have gone before us. But, for the Christian, this occurs in a way that is unique, because it is all enlightened by Christ.

Through this enlightenment, Christ enlightens us, and empowers us to serve as a light for others. But sometimes, unfortunately, in the name of 'tolerance' and 'getting along', we sometimes gloss over the uniqueness of Christianity, surrender to the inter-religious narrative that 'all religions are simply seeking the same God in their own way', or allow the secular jibe that 'all religions are the same' to go unchecked.

As bearers of the Light, we are called to be extremely sensitive and caring towards each and every individual we encounter. We are called to meet the where they are. We are called to learn and understand their situation, their beliefs, their viewpoints. We are called to walk side by side with them... but we are never - NEVER - called to hide the light we have received.

No guru, no matter how convincing, can take away our guilt forever. No parapsychology practice can give us eternal peace. Even our own common religious practices will fail us if our light is burnt out or covered up. You see, light is a metaphor for the presence of the Spirit in our lives. When the Spirit is with us, our path is illumined to discern right from wrong, spiritual truths from quakish counterfeits. When we hide our light, even because we think that doing so makes us more 'kind' and 'compassionate' to people who do not share our beliefs, we do ourselves a disservice. And, frankly, we do them a disservice as well. We begin or deepen our relationships under false pretenses. We do not bear true witness to who we are and what we believe. 

Now, to be sure, this doesn't have to be in your face. I'm not speaking of that. I don't walk into every patient room, every meeting I attend, every situation in life and say, "Hi, my name is Rob. I'm a Christian, and you should be too." But I also strive to discern situations in which the light I have received should be used. How it should illumine a situation. I equally seek to determine what kinds of practices are antithetical to my Christian confession, and do my best to avoid them.

I'm not always successful. I'm certainly still a sinner, saved by grace. I still need a fresh infusion of the Spirit day-by-day. I need to be reminded constantly of the uniqueness of Christ Jesus, of his sacrifice, of his promises. I need that for my own personal relationship. I need it to be an effective preacher. I need it to secure my heart for priestly ministry. I also need it to ensure that I am balancing proper witness and respect in all aspects of my life.

Friends... you need this too. The world is filled with sincere people who are not Christians. They deserve to be treated with respect and integrity. But the world is also filled with plenty of spiritual fakes; and we must discern them and exclude them from our lives; lest they become baskets over our light. 

You see, putting a basket over a light is dangerous. 

If the basket is woven tightly enough, it may snuff out the flame from lack of oxygen.

If the basket is loosely woven, it will catch on fire, collapse atop the flame, and after a wild, fast burn, will reduce the basket and the lamp into cold, dead ashes.

This is not what Christ wants for us.

In our longing to behold God face-to-face, let us make use of every spiritual tool at our disposal to grow and develop our relationship with God in Christ Jesus; and let us rightly discern what makes for a spiritual tool, and what makes for a destructing influence in our spiritual lives.


That the Church would always shine forth brightly
in witness to the Good News of Christ Jesus;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That Christian leaders would equip the flock
with the spiritual tools they need
to deepen their relationships with God;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That we, in our daily walk,
would find just and honorable ways
to balance a respect for others
and the integrity of our professed faith;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who feel their lights dim,
who find gusts and breezes to be aiming at their lamp,
or whose faith has been snuffed out
by spiritual frauds
or the pain and hurt of life
may be protected,
and rekindled,
through our loving-presence,
and through the power of the Spirit;
let us pray to the Lord;
Lord, hear our prayer.

That the sick,
the broken,
the grieving,
and the dying
may, even in their moments of deepest darkness,
find the consoling warmth of the Spirit to be inflaming their hearts,
constantly kindling faith, hope, and love within them;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That all of our personal needs and intentions
would be received by God who reigns in everlasting light...
...and that we,
trusting in his goodness,
may see in our lives the fruit of our prayers;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.