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February 5, 2017
[St. Anthony Church, Kalihi (Confirmation)]
Boring! Dull! Lifeless! Obscure!
These are words that, unfortunately, are sometimes used to describe our Catholic faith, with its many rituals, traditions, customs, norms and rules. Perhaps we ourselves have used these descriptions, and we may presume that many of the people who are Catholics but who hardly ever come to Mass would probably describe the Catholic Church with these words. But today’s Scriptures challenge us to change that perception, to be the ones who shine a glowing light on life, who make life interesting and flavorful, and who know that doing so gives the greatest glory to God.
Let’s take the Mass, for example. It appears that we are here to sing some songs, to say some prayers, to hear what we hope will be a little wisdom from the preacher, and then to wind it all up in an hour or so, so that we can go about the real business of life (like watching the Superbowl!). If that is our understanding of the Mass, then I guarantee you it will lose its flavor, it will become quite dull and monotonous. But if we understand that this is a personal encounter with a real person, Jesus, who is alive, and who loves us more than we can imagine, our whole perspective can change. If we further grasp, at least a little, that we are not just reading from an old book but are witnessing Jesus himself, the eternal Word of God, taking flesh in us as we hear the Scriptures; if we can even begin to understand that this crucified one who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven is the living bread come down from heaven, who wants to touch us so intimately that he allows us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, then who could possibly be bored? Of course, the hospitality of our fellow worshippers, the quality of the music and preaching, and the other outward signs are extremely important in creating a suitable atmosphere for this encounter with the living Lord Jesus. But even if these things do not measure up, Jesus is still with us. It is for us then to be the salt that is first flavored with his loving presence and then can bring others to taste and see the goodness of the Lord. It is for us to shine light on what others may not be able to see because they are only looking at the outward signs and not the true reality of the encounter with the Savior of the world that we experience here.
But it gets even more exciting! Jesus does want us to come at least every Sunday so that he can physically embrace us with his love. But he also wants us to be salt and light once we leave here as well. We do that by sharing our bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and homeless, clothing the naked, and not turning our back on our own.
Are there problems in your family? You can lament them and allow them to be driven further into distasteful conflicts and dark resentments, or you can be the salt that tries to bring flavor to what is distasteful and the light of reconciliation. Are there classmates in your school being bullied? You can turn your back on their bitter sufferings and darkness, or you can reach out to them, and perhaps together work against bullying so that they can taste the sweetness of acceptance and walk with their heads high in the light. Is our culture committed so much to the “ME” that I think I am the only one who matters on earth, that I am a god, making my own truth and being just what I want to be? We can be the ones who insist on salting it up by emphasizing the importance of the community, the family, and true relationships, and who can light the way when others think going out of oneself will lead to darkness. Is not our encounter here also meant to make us into “one body, one spirit, in Christ”?
None of these things is easy to do. When we do them we can be sure we will be resisted, criticized, even persecuted. This is why God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, to strengthen us with a power we could not possibly have on our own, a power that can enable us to accomplish things we never imagined we could. This is why it is so important to come together every Sunday to renew this power by ourselves being salted and enlightened by the physical embrace of Jesus. This is where we learn that we can glory in Christ crucified, and that even our own sufferings in his name can bring us incredible joy.
Boring? Dull? Never! On the contrary, our faith will lead all to the salvation that only God can give in Jesus, if we accept the Spirit of Jesus that makes us the salt of the earth and the light of the world.