The light of the Church is Christ and as His followers we are called to imitate Him in His example. We are called to be lights in the world, to reflect His glory. If you have ever lit a poor quality torch in the dark you would know that the light which emanates from it is weak, and may even start to flicker and die. The batteries may need changing, but even then the workmanship of the product may be faulty and so the torch is quite ineffectual.
What we need is a better quality torch that emits a beam so bright, it penetrates through every dust particle in the room. That is the light you want to have and that is the light you want to be! The size of the torch does not matter – and in fact these are often the littlest and humblest of torches – but they do the job. And so it is with you. You may think that you can do very little to make a difference in the world (or actually, the devil puts that idea into your head), but that is not true. You may believe that you are too old, too young, too small, too poor, too shy, or too (insert reason here), but we can all do something to be God’s light and bring others closer to Christ who is the eternal light. This is especially true for laypeople who are living and working in the secular world, as well as for the religious.
You need to be the beacon in a world of darkness. ‘Do not be afraid’ is an often-quoted and uttered phrase, but we need to also live it. It is hard, but this needs to be real for us. It may mean putting yourself forward in an uncomfortable situation, such as speaking out when someone is being persecuted for holding onto their faith, or for defending the teachings of Christ through the Catholic Church.
Towards the end of last year, around the beginning of Advent when the theme of ‘staying awake’ was at the forefront of my mind, I sensed an honest disappointment within myself and with others in the world. I felt that many of us are too tepid and embarrassed to talk about our Catholic faith. Many of us may come across as being too lukewarm towards our love for our faith and Christ. We are often too scared to speak up in defence of Christ’s teachings – particularly for the poor, the weak, for families, the dying, and for the sanctity of the Sacraments. I became fascinated with the topics of ‘lukewarmness’ (as discussed by Pope Francis) and ‘acedia’.
I used to hear the word lukewarm and just thought about water which is neither too hot nor too cold. I did not think about the lukewarmness of the heart which can quietly enter us like an infectious disease. When a person is lukewarm they are neither here nor there. They are sitting on the fence and do not want to commit to anything either way for fear of hurting someone or losing something. Other words for lukewarm include halfhearted, apathetic, uninterested, cool.
It is important to not confuse being lukewarm with being a humble, reserved, or quiet person. As an introvert, I know that us quiet and sensitive types can be misunderstood in life.
In a religious or faith context being lukewarm can be quite harmful. It can mean that you believe with your head, but not with your heart. You are in the faith pool, but avoid diving in too deeply. You know about Jesus and may go to Mass regularly, read the Bible, serve in various ministries, and recite prayers by rote – and this is wonderful – but something is missing in that you don’t really know Jesus as a person intimately. You want to truly connect and feel from the heart. Being lukewarm can therefore be a real spiritual condition a lot of people may find themselves in without wanting to, thanks to the wiles of the devil.
I have recognized this and the noonday devil of sorts within myself at times. I have wondered where the fire has gone or how to get it back. Where is the zeal burning in our hearts and in our words and actions? Why can we seem so flat? Why aren’t we connecting with each other more and talking about God, and then with our neighbours out in the world? Why can we look so miserable? As human beings we all have suffering, problems, pains, broken relationships, work issues, etc. which threaten to overwhelm us, but as Catholics we need to reach out to each other for support to rise above it, pray together, and be an authentic community of confident people. We need to get real about our commitment to God, with each other, and with the world.
I was blessed to know three people in my life who I can genuinely say had this burning fire of God within them whenever I saw and spoke with them, particularly at Mass. They patiently bore suffering in their lives but seemed to have a supernatural energy about them to hold on and keep going. They had guts and tenacity. They were alive with some sort of deep wellspring of joy which I often quietly marvelled at. It was a thrill to see them every week and I truly felt as if I was in the presence of God with them. I always left their company feeling uplifted and inspired to grow in my faith. I left them glowing. I loved being around them and wanted to be like them.
I want to be a match alight with fire for God in every part of my life as a Catholic in an increasingly unbelieving world. I want and pray that for you too. Christ, the Good Shepherd, the loving Light, and the Triumphant King, purges all darkness. We in His church need to lift up our hearts to Him and allow His flame to set it alight with love.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
We want to aim to be a beacon who is prepared to shine for our faith no matter what the world may think. We want to say ‘Yes’ to God’s true and unadulterated love by our fidelity to His Son and the Gospel.
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
While at times we may feel the difficulty of going against the grain of what is popular in society, we must be resolved to never abandon what we believe and to grow as a faith community together. Our road is not often paved with gold on this side of Heaven, but the reward of Him who awaits us will make the journey worthwhile.
So let us be braver this year.
Let us truly be on fire with confidence for His sake.
Let us be His beacons and throw off the old, for He makes all things new.
“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)