Jesus said to the crowd: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 8:16).
God blesses us freely without cost, he gives himself to us. He has done great things for us and he is the source of our joy! We do not earn nor is there anything that we can do to gain God’s grace. But we can lose the gift we have been given. This happens either by refusing what has been offered, or once accepting and receiving, not doing anything with our gift. If we are people of faith in name only, but not followed by action, we are concealing the light we have been given.
Since our Golden Retrievers have passed away, the walking I had done with them has been almost non-existent. Premature aging of my heart, weight gain, lower back and body ache, as well as a series of pulled muscles over the course of last year, were all subtle hints that my lack of attention to exercise was exacting a cost on my health. This past week, I started to stretch daily again and plan to begin to implement a series of exercises that can help to turn this situation around. It is amazing that I can feel aches from just walking a few miles over the past few days.
The same can be said for our faith. If we do not exercise our faith, we will receive signs of spiritual atrophy. To not even acknowledge the presence of God in our life, the free gift of his invitation to be in a relationship with him, we will experience limitations in our lives. For whether we believe in God or not, we hunger to be in communion with him and one another, so we will be looking for other apparent avenues of happiness that will fall short of fulfilling us. If we do accept that there is a God, yet don’t participate in worship, fellowship, service, and prayer, we are not much better off. I can believe that my car will get me to where I want to go, but if I do not put the key in the ignition, turn on the engine, put the car in drive, I will remain stationary.
If we claim to be people of faith, we need to put our faith into action. That means daily we need to spend time in prayer, reading the Bible, studying our faith through spiritual reading, CDs, DVDs (I at first wrote cassettes and videotapes!) and/or podcasts. We need to consistently participate in worship, the sacraments, and be engaged in service to one another. As we do so, we will begin to reflect Jesus to others and so be able to see God at work in our everyday experiences and better collaborate with him in all we do. In allowing the light of Jesus to shine through us, we also need to resist the tendency to privatize our faith, while at the same time resisting getting in someone’s face. Instead, we need to be present, caring, understanding, supportive, and willing to accompany one another, even others of no or different faith traditions.
Jesus has given his life for us, and he continues to be present to us. May we be open to being conformed today and each day by his love and mercy. We do so by consciously turning away the temptations of sloth, indifference, prejudice, and fear, and instead seek to encounter one another and build relationships. Jesus is willing to enter the chaos of our lives. May we too be willing to do the same for one another by seeking in each interaction to radiate the presence of Christ’s light, so to shine with actions of patience, understanding, support, joy, and hospitality in such a way that anytime we come together, God happens.