During the Easter season, we again heard the great and powerful stories of the Risen Christ’s appearances to his followers. They are gracious stories, filled with healing, compassion and the gift of peace. The stories express the reconciling love of Christ toward those who fled from, or betrayed him, in his hour of need. Even more, they remind us that Christ’s love for his friends is so great that he commissions them to proclaim to the whole world the Good News of salvation.
Now we come to the Feast of Pentecost and its reminder that the church’s commission — our commission — is the same. We, too, by what we say and by how we conduct ourselves, are to be heralds of Christ’s redeeming love.
It’s a tall order, isn’t it? How are we frail mortals ever to carry the presence and power of Christ to others? The easy response is that we don’t and can’t do it on our own. It’s possible only if we confess that Jesus is Lord, and the gifts of the Spirit are active in our hearts.
That is absolutely true. We need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to lead people to Christ. But the harder part of the reality is to accept the fact that we must bring our capacity to know and to love to our work of sharing the Good News. We are not robots, programmed to move and speak at the command of the one who controls us. Rather, we are free human beings who, inspired by God, are trusted to tell people about the Lord in ways that are possible for us and understandable to them.
We don’t need to be quick of wit to tell people about Christ. Our ability to do so does not depend on how many years of education we have amassed, or the number of our achievements, our prestige in the community or our financial status. No, our ability to open others to the mystery of Christ is rooted in the way our own faith shapes our operating principles and our behavior. If our behavior is consonant with the words and work of Christ, then the Holy Spirit will draw others to him through us.
The call of the Lord so to live comes to all of us. Christ wants us all to be the salt of the earth. He wants us all to be a light for the world. Bishops and priests will do that in one way. Spouses will do it in another. And so will parents, teachers, cloistered nuns, corporate CEOs, public servants, teens and tiny children. We all have the Spirit-inspired ability and responsibility to share the Good News with others.
I invite you on this Pentecost Sunday, which reminds us that we are all the church, to think and pray about ways in which God might be calling you to be salt and light for others.
As a preliminary step, you may want to take some time to think about the people in your personal experience who have been salt and light for you. Who are the people who have sparked your enthusiasm for living when you were struggling or discouraged? Who were the people who illumined the way when you were in darkness and could not find it alone?
Chances are that when you remember those blessed individuals, you will not be in touch with extraordinary activity or highly unusual gifts. More than likely you will be in touch with garden-variety kindness, patience, courage and self-giving. These people generally are those who listened to us with care, who respected what they heard and then spoke their own truth back to us.
All of us can do such things if we spend time in prayer with the Lord and if we trust that the Spirit of the Lord leads us always in safe paths.
On this holy feast, please think about people you know who yearn for salt and light in their lives, and about how the Lord may have prepared you to offer them those precious gifts.
Peace to all.