“Your light must shine before others”

In the Gospels, we read of Jesus speaking to the disciples. But his message is also to us. In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus tells us to be a light to the world, to shine before others to glorify the heavenly Father.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”

“You are the light of the world,” says Jesus. “Your light must shine before others.” Don’t hide it, let your light – your goodness, your righteousness – shine that others may see it. Not for your glory, but to “glorify your heavenly Father.”

Jesus cautions us on how to be righteous. Not to parade it before others for our own sake. For instance, not to pray in public for our own adoration, not to seek out the seat of honor as guest at someone’s dinner, not to do good works for the sake of being seen to do good works. Rather, we are to do what we do for the glory of God — let Him take our good works on and make of them as He will. As Jesus commanded, help those in need, without boasting or taking credit, and let the credit go to God. Our reward will be in heaven.

There need not be the poor, the homeless, the sick, the hungry. God created the many, each with abundant gifts to share. When we share the gifts that God gave us, we are doing God’s work. To Him be the glory for His creation, the light of the world.

Jesus was speaking to the disciples, but He was also speaking to us. We are to be the light Jesus sends out into the world. Let us go out into the world in His name that others may know Him and His love, His mercy, His compassion. And the love, compassion, and mercy of His heavenly Father.

Jesus sent out His disciples with these words: Peace be with you. Go out now with His peace to light up the world. Shine with the glory of God.

 

“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned”

You keep saying you believe, but it may not mean what you think it means. Here is what John 3:16-18 has to say.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

It is a beautiful gift, God giving His only Son to save the world. And all the world has to do is believe in Him. Sounds simple enough. There are those in the world who believe that’s all that’s required, that you simply believe — end of story, you’re saved. And there are plenty of stories in the Gospels in which someone believed and his faith has cured him or her. Or is that what really happened?

A woman followed Jesus in a crowd and touched His garment. Her faith saved her and she was cured. But it wasn’t just her belief. She worked at it. She followed Him. She reached out. She dared to actually touch His garment.

A blind man heard Jesus approach and cried out for His help. The crowd told Him to be quiet but he persisted, crying out again. And again. And Jesus came over to him and cured him for his faith. He came to Jesus, he persisted, he called out.

Our belief requires anact of faith. Some say acts aren’t enough. But the Gospels show mere belief isn’t enough, either. So what is belief?

For the good Samaritan, belief was stopping and helping the battered man along the side of the road. For the prodigal son, it was giving up the wanton life and returning to his father; for his father, it was forgiving his son who was lost; for his brother, it was softening his heart for his disloyal brother who now has returned to the family. These, of course, are parables, but they are examples that Jesus gave us of people living in faith.

Belief is not just acknowledging Jesus’ existence and His divinity, but acting on his teachings and commandments. It is feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, providing for the poor, visiting the prisoner, giving succor to the widow and the orphan, making up with your neighbor or brother who has wronged you, making peace with your enemy, and above all loving God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, and loving your neighbor as yourself. And it is taking in God’s love and sharing it with others. Belief isn’t a spectator sport, as they saying goes; belief is a full-contact sport.

We live in troubled times and in troubling times. There seems to be far too little acting on belief and far too much “I believe now let me get on with my life.” There is no get out of jail for free card. God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it. Saving it requires the world take part in its belief. You say you believe; act like it.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you”

This day in the Gospels, Jesus filled His disciples with the Holy Spirit and sent them out into the world, as we learn in John 20:19-23.

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

This is Pentecost Sunday, celebrating the occasion when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit among His followers, then His disciples into the world.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the witness say, “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” And in First Corinthians, Paul says, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

Normally, I quote only from the Gospels, but I want to give you some sense of what it means to be be filled with the Holy Spirit. Through His Holy Spirit, God gives each of us gifts or powers and empowers us to do His good work.

In the Gospel according to John, Jesus fills the disciples with the Holy Spirit and then sends them forth to use these gifts, these powers, to do His works. In his words, He gives them the power, the gift, to forgive or hold bound sins. In the Acts of the Apostles, He gives them the gift of tongues to go out and spread the Gospels to every corner of the world. I envision that Jesus also gives them the gift of healing and consoling and doing all manner of other miracles.

On this Pentecost Sunday, Jesus sends us His Holy Spirit. Open your heart to Him. Do you feel the power of God like tongues of fire? Do you feel it fill you with love and the desire to serve God and, thus, serve others?

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” God has given you a gift, a power, to do His good works. It’s unique to you. Perhaps it is sharing Jesus’ Gospel, but perhaps it is sharing his love. Or healing the pains or sorrows or illness of another. Maybe you are wealthy and it is finding a way to share some of that wealth for the good of others. Maybe it is speaking up for others. Or it could be as simply as healing an old wound among friends or family. Think of the works that Jesus did in the Gospels. Think of the lessons He has taught us. How can you share His love in serving others?

Receive the Holy Spirit and go out into the world and serve in His name.

“The Father himself loves you”

Jesus has given us the power to pray directly to the Father, as it is told in John 16:23-28. What a wonderful gift.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.
Until now you have not asked anything in my name;
ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

“I have told you this in figures of speech.
The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures
but I will tell you clearly about the Father.
On that day you will ask in my name,
and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.
For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me
and have come to believe that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world.
Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

Wow! That’s a pretty powerful statement. Once Jesus asked the Father for us. But at His Ascension, Jesus gave us the power to petition the Father directly, in His name: “I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I come from God.” And, “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

Do you pray to the Father? I know many who pray to Jesus; they are Christians, after all. But Jesus tells us here that we have the power to pray directly to the Father. The Father who loves us himself. Now, I’m not saying not to pray to Jesus, Our Savior. There are many reasons to pray to Him. But when you really need something (and I’m not speaking of when you want a material object or something that is counter to your well being; I mean something you really, really, really need), wouldn’t you pray directly to the Father, who is the all powerful creator and provider of the universe?

The Father Himself loves you. When Jesus taught us how to pray, He taught us how to pray to the Father, which is the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer. We just need to ask in Jesus’ name, because we love Him and believe that He came from God. And because Jesus himself tells us that we must ask in His name.

God loves us. God wants love for us. Love is ours to have and to share with one another.

“Now this is eternal life”

We give glory to God by giving ourselves up to Him, as we learn in John 17:1-11.

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said,
“Father, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
I glorified you on earth
by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.
Now glorify me, Father, with you,
with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”

“Now this is eternal life,” says Jesus, “that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” He is speaking to the Father, who is to raise Jesus to the heavenly kingdom. Then He goes on to explain how He got to this point in His journey on earth and then asks the Father to bring Him home to heaven.

Heaven is our true home. We haven’t been there before, but it is where we belong, the home that the Father has prepared for us and the Son has made way for us. The Father chose us to be with Him in heaven, sent His Son to prepare us to be with Him, and then when His Son’s work was done on earth, called Him home to heaven, creating our path to being in the presence of God.

It’s no mistake nor some happenstance that we are chosen. God wants us with Him. He loves us. He gave us birth. He gave us life. He gave us faith. And He will give us death that we may make the journey to heaven. We shouldn’t fear death – natural death – we should welcome it as our way into God’s kingdom. Just as we embrace life.

What is the meaning of life? The meaning of life is to encounter Jesus in our hearts, listen to and act on his teachings, love God and love one another, and make our journey to heaven. Giving ourselves to God is giving glory to God. This is eternal life.

“I am with you always”

In these troubling times, we need some assurance. We find it in Matthew 28:16-20.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

We live in troubling times. Whatever side of the political divide in which you reside, there seems to be no good news. Terrorism still pervades the world. Crime, chaos, bigotry, hatred seem to be everywhere. Even in social circles there seem to be great divides and acrimony. Religion is in turmoil, and fewer and fewer people, especially among the young, are gravitating to some form of faith. The world “is going to hell in a hand basket,” as the saying goes. It is easy to become caught up in the mire of despair that is present in our world.

But remember, it has always been so. As today’s reading reminds us, Jesus’ disciples gathered at His ascension doubting. And Jesus reassured them, “I am with you always.”

The Father has always been. He has no beginning and no end. He brought forth His Son, gave Him to us as our Savior, then after Jesus’ death and resurrection, took Him up into Heaven to sit at His right hand. And there the Son of God rules us. He is there for us always. So when things seem dim and discordant and extreme without end, know that Jesus is there for us — without end. And Jesus tells us many times in the Gospels, ask in His name and He will provide for us.

Do not despair. As Jesus has told us elsewhere in the Gospels, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus is with us. Pray. Ask in His name. The Father and the Son are listening. If God is for us, who can be against us? Amen?

 

“Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit”

We give glory to the Father when we are steadfast in our faith, Jesus tells us in John 15:1-8.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

This reads like a warning to Jesus’ disciples: Stray from me and my teachings, and you will no longer be my disciples. But in truth, it is a message for us all. And it isn’t just about teachings and being disciples. It is about living a truly righteous life and reaching the Kingdom of Heaven. It is also about access to the gifts faith in Jesus gives.

And what does Jesus teach? He certainly teaches us to observe the commandments. But he also teaches us to serve one another, all our neighbors. He also teaches us to put others first. And Jesus teaches us love God and to love one another as the greatest commandments. He often teaches us to trust God and to know that whatever we need, God will provide, if we but ask for it in Jesus’ name. And finally, Jesus asks us to believe that because he died on the cross for us, our sins will be forgiven and because he rose from the dead, we too can rise from the dead and be resurrected into eternal life in heaven. All this – all this – is in the glory of the Father, who loves us.

That’s Jesus final point in this passage, one we often forget in our me-centered culture: All happens to give glory to the Father. We may sing “Glory to God in the highest” during Mass or other services, but is it much more than a formality? “This is my Father glorified,” says Jesus, “that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” You become His disciples by remaining in Him and Him in you. Stay steadfast in your faith and steadfast to Jesus’ teachings. Be His hands and walk His journey, speak His words and do His works. Give glory to God the Father in your faith. In this way, you will bear much fruit.