Reflections on the Readings
September 29, 2013 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C
Keeping the Light of Faith Shining
(The Prophet says,) "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion...who drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!"
Disturbing the Comfortable
Our Father comforts the disturbed. The troubled and those with heavy hearts he visits with help in their time of need. He also disturbs the comfortable. As we hear in today's readings, there is a word of warning. Complacency and self congratulatory smugness are lethal to the faith we profess. Running on neutral or worse yet, on the fumes of a faith once vibrant and alive, is to be at "ease in Zion."
Every pack of cigarettes has a warning about the ill effects of smoking. Yet millions ignore that uncomfortable warning. And after many years of smoking, the lungs of a smoker look like the charred remains of a house destroyed by fire. What you can't see can't hurt you, right? The smoker generally ignores the warning on the pack in her hand and lights up another thinking that one more might not hurt. Then comes the disturbing news, "I'm sorry, but you have lung cancer."
We all agree that smokers shouldn't ignore the warning on that pack of cigarettes. Neither should we ignore any signs of our love growing inward. If ever we hear, "Soul, you've done good for yourself. Why don't you take it easy for a while and let someone else be concerned for the lost, the lonely, and the least. Let someone else care for the dying and rescue the perishing." If ever you hear that hellish imp whisper such things in your ear, remember the words of the prophet, "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!" Be aware when the light in the soul is going out.
Bearing One Another's Burden
A vibrant and growing Christian faith also has an awareness and calling of mission. Those whose faith is on fire will not ignore the Lazarus' in their lives. There is the hungry Lazarus. Lazarus can be someone lost who needs faith and grace and forgiveness. We will meet Lazarus in the office or at the store and even at Church. Whoever Lazarus is, may it never be said that your Lazarus was your mission and there was no time or notice or awareness of Lazarus.
Lazarus is also our brothers and sisters enduring a great trial of faith. In Egypt and Syria and Iraq unspeakable atrocities are happening to members of our own Church family. They are the Lazarus' of the 21st century. These folks are our spiritual relatives. Of course members of Congress and our President and the United Nations ought to be up in arms at what is happening to the Christian community in these troubled places of the human family.
But most importantly, let us offer prayer for these who are our family. They suffer because they are Christian. They belong to communities of faith that have existed in their part of the world for the better part of 2000 years. They are today's Lazarus; the ignored and defamed and subjected to great scorn, hostility and death. May we give them the comfort of our prayers. Let us lift our prayers and ask for a new and guiding light for these our sisters and brothers who live in very dark times.
No Ordinary Light
In the reading from Paul's letter to Timothy, Paul describes no ordinary light. Christ dwells in "unapproachable light." It is not of human origin. And it is unapproachable in that we bring no competing brightness to it. When we think about our mission to let our light shine we are not speaking of a light we shine. It is not derived from within us. This light is given through us and all who let the light of eternity shine on their soul. It is a light that darkness cannot compete with and win. There is no darkness able to impede this light we might call the light of love - a love that is of a purity that washes away our sins so that we become white as snow. It's no ordinary light.
Our mission is to make this light, or rather, to allow this light to shine in all of the pureness and life and love it brings. If we pray, "Lord, show me the way. Show me where you need me. Lead me to what you want me to do and to whom you want me to reach," God will lead and guide us to do his will. His light shines more brightly when we invite its rays to penetrate our minds, our hearts, and our vision. There is a saying that goes like this: There is none so blind who will not see! That's true. If we don't ask the Lord to shine on us and through us, we will not see and know the mission of reaching the Lazarus we are to reach.
The rich man lived and dined and clothed himself in all of his finest. He ignored Moses and the Prophets. He disdained the light they shined. Perhaps he mocked them and thought them too old fashion and out of touch with reality. Because of the darkness in his life, the rich man didn't notice nor care that someone right outside his door needed him and what he could do for him.
Like Moses who stood barefoot on Holy Ground before the Burning Bush that was not consumed, we also may contemplate the Divine Light. It is a mystery of faith we can not approach with our own understanding. In humility let us receive the eternal life it emits. And rather than bask in it, may we keep shining this great and awesome way of faith, hope, and charity until on that day we are united with that Light in that place where there is no need of the sun for the Lamb is the Light of that City. And the first person we will meet there will be the Lazarus that we helped. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com