20 September 2010

Shining Our Light

Today's Gospel proposes a familiar challenge: the exhortation not to light a lamp and place it under a bed. This may seem an odd (if not impractical) image to us today -- in part, perhaps because current OSHA regulations would, no doubt, prevent anyone from lighting a lamp and putting it under a (highly flammable) bed.

How often, however, do we do this spiritually? How often do are we uncomfortable showing external signs of the faith we treasure in our hearts? Perhaps we are eating out in a restaurant and we feel funny saying grace at the table for fear of what others around us might think. Maybe we are away with friends for a few days and we feel shy to tell them that we'd like to find a Church for daily Mass. Or, perhaps we are in conversation at work and we are uncomfortable about how an absent colleague is described; do we find a gentle way to show our dislike of detraction or do we cover over the light of truth that shines in our hearts? These are difficult and, at times, dangerous situations. In the case of the latter, a person's reputation may be at stake and fear might keep us from shining the light of a good example by speaking out in truth and in charity.

One very effective way of making sure that we do all in our power to let our proverbial light shine in moments where we might be tempted to hide it is to take some time each morning and consider prayerfully all that we anticipate meeting in the coming day. Just as, at the end of the day, we examine the moments where we might have been more loving, more gentle, more kind and we ask for the grace to do better the next day ... we can do this before the day begins by preparing ourselves for those encounters which we can anticipate. When we have considered the promise of a new day and done so with the Lord at our side, we stand a better chance of keeping our light visible and helping to light the way for others.

"Consider beforehand what occupations, duties and occasions are likely this day to enable you to serve God . . . and make a fervent resolution to use all means of serving Him and confirming your own piety. . . . It is not enough to make such a resolution, --you must also prepare to carry it into effect. Thus, if you foresee having to meet someone who is hot-tempered and irritable, you must not merely resolve to guard your own temper, but you must consider by what gentle words to conciliate him. If you know you will see some sick person, consider how best to minister comfort to him, and so on."
St. Francis de Sales

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