I have been working since I was twelve years old. My first job was as a paperboy. I delivered newspapers in our neighborhood. When I was fourteen I worked the summer on a farm cultivating and picking shade tobacco. Through high school, I worked at McDonalds and then through college, I worked second shift as a nurse’s aide at a nursing home.
The gift of these opportunities was more than making money, it was an opportunity that God provided for me to draw me out of myself and provide me with the ability to serve the needs of others. This was especially true working in the nursing home. Caring for my elders was pretty demanding work, especially in my last few years working there because we were consistently short of help. During that time I had been punched, peed and pooped on, and you haven’t lived until you have had the privilege of taking someone’s dentures out of their mouth that wants them to stay in.
Yet, I would not trade those five years for anything. Through my time there, I learned the deeper meaning of love, agape, that is unconditional love. What St Thomas Aquinas calls, willing the good of the other. The residents and my colleagues drew me out of my own self-centered state of looking at the world. In those years I became more alive, more human.
This is what our job as Christian is to be. Pope Francis in his August 2, 2017 weekly general audience addressed this point when he said, “Baptism is the reason for our hope, and it should inspire us to give off our light even in the most mundane or difficult moments throughout daily life.”
Pope Francis in the same address also said, “What a grace when a Christian truly becomes a Christ-bearer in the world.” Mary is known by the Greek title of Theotokos. This means God bearer. Mary bore Jesus, the incarnate Son of God into the world. We are to be God bearers as well. This is our ultimate calling, this is what we have been created for, this is to be our purpose in life.
How are we to bear Christ to one another? One way is revealed in today’s Gospel “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt 23:11-12).
Being a Christ bearer starts with developing a relationship with God. We need to be humble before God. This is not a false humility where we walk around saying we are nothing. What this does mean is acknowledging that God is God and we are not. This means surrendering our ego to the Lord of all creation. God will give us that which we need to bring Christ to the world. St Mother Teresa of Calcutta gives us the perfect image; we are to be a pencil in God’s hand. He moves us through the Holy Spirit and we write his love song.
“For as long as I shall live I will testify to love. I’ll be a witness in the silences, words are not enough. With every breath I take I will give thanks to God above. For as long as I shall live, I will testify to love.” – Chorus from “Testify to Love.”
To be a Christ bearer means we need to be loving, to be humble. Being a Christ bearer also means that we are to be gentle and kind with one another. St Paul shows how he ministered in this way with the Thessalonians: “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.”
We are to have the humility to serve one another with kindness, with gentleness. We are called to accompany, to walk with one another. To be there for one another in our needs and struggles. The more we give, sharing of our time, talent, and treasure, emptying ourselves, the more God fills us up. Once we are filled with the love and mercy of God, we are ready to go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
Bearing God to the world is not easy. We live in a fallen world of darkness and sin in which many prefer to remain in the darkness. Sin has not destroyed us, it has only wounded us. This is why we need to resist imposing our faith, instead we need to be inviting, modeling our life with the joy of the Gospel. We are called to minister, to be a healing salve to others, to assist in bearing one another’s burdens.
Paraphrasing Pope Francis, we need to remember that as Christ Bearers we don’t believe in darkness, but in the light of day; we don’t succumb to the night, but wait for the dawn; we are not defeated by death, but long to rise again; we are not bowed down by evil, because we trust in the infinite power of good.
Let us take courage.
Be not afraid.
Let us bear the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness in our corner of the world, in our realm of our influence this day. As long as we shall live, let us testify to love.
Photo: Early morning at Cardinal Newman High School
“Testify To Love” Avalon CCLI# 2572844 Copyright (c) 1996,1998 Universal Music Corp.
Pope Francis. General Audience. August 2, 2017:
Link for today’s readings for the Mass: