Saturday, January 2, 2016

Christ Joyfully to the Nations

The Feast of the Epiphany

This Sunday, the second reading will be from Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6. The link includes the intervening verses. Be sure to read the other readings for context.

I suspect that the vast, vast majority of the current Christian population is gentile in its origins.

Early in the Church’s history, it experienced growth at an incredible rate - on the order of thousands of people being baptized in a single day. I don’t think any of us are likely to witness conversion on such a drastic scale in our lifetimes.

No, for most of us, the largest number of conversions we see at a single time numbers in the twenties at the Easter Vigil.  But the “thousands in a day” should always be something that we hope for.

What it is that the early Christians knew about interacting with non-Christians that we have forgotten?

I would posit that we, collectively speaking, have forgotten how to live the faith in a way that is attractive. Pope Francis refers to “pickled pepper” Catholics as being something of a problem, and I think that he is right.

How many people do we all see in the pews each week that look like they don’t want to be there?  Whose default expression after Mass is to scowl to avoid having to talk to anyone? And all too many of the remainder look solemn or somber.

Living the faith joyfully is one of those things that many of us Christians from the developed world never really learned how to do. Our experience of the Catholic faith has largely focused on the awe we experience in God’s presence, and not on the joy we take in the salvation that we received as a result of the sacrifice we partake in.

Call me crazy, but I think that this lack of joy in the sacraments makes the Christian life as lived by Catholics look unattractive, rich though it may be.

Nowadays, people will not be convinced of Christ by a sound argument - it will be by an encounter with a person. That person is not us.

We need to be prepared to reflect the light, love, and joy of Christ’s presence in the world, if we are to be his instruments for the winning of souls.

This week at Mass, consider this: the sacrifice you witness is an invaluable gift. And each week, we - just like kids at Christmas - open that gift all over again!

Do you remember opening presents on Christmas morning as a kid, and how excited you got about your shiny new whatever-it-was? We should have that same kind of excitement when we take the sacraments - any of the sacraments. And if expressing that joy is difficult in the moment, then we should be prepared to talk about it after the fact.

Prayer Suggestion for the week:

Ask God to show you one way in which you can better reflect his face to the world, that you might become a more effective tool for his kingdom.

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