Made “bearers of the light” by our baptism
Fourth Sunday in Lent (L4B), March 22, 2009
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS
SUNDAY READINGS (For use by RCIA)
I grew up with my grandmother for most of my childhood days. Our birthdays as grandchildren were celebrated at home with our families. But she made sure we celebrated our baptismal days right in her place. She would light a candle all day; prepare a special meal without any marketing for she raised everything she needed, and would narrate us a story (a parable of all kinds) after.
Her stories would always conclude: “You are God’s sons and daughters….behave like one”. I often wonder why we do not celebrate the very day we were baptized. For most of us, We have been baptized but have forgotten. She made sure we did not.
She was indeed a saint, if you ask me. Of course, she did not do much to be recognized as one; but she lived as one. In fact, in today’s way of labeling, she may be considered a “nominal or seasonal catholic, going to church only on big feasts and holydays. But she was a true Christian in the way she lived. She lived with her feet and not with her lips; and she spoke with her feet and not with her mouth.
I don’t ever remember her speaking harsh or being rude or being arrogant. She was woman of few words, in fact, speaking only when necessary and always with wisdom. I can remember some of her words, most of which I find difficult to translate. Some are just being appreciated now, when in fact she has discovered these long time ago. A few examples:
“Kung mabuti magsalita, kung masama huwag ng magdada”
(Speak up when there is goodness, shut up otherwise)
“Ang sama ng loob maghilom man day, magnanaknak din balang araw . Kaya mag-ingat sa pananalita” (The hurt inflicted may heal but the scar remains sensitive. So be careful with your tongue).
“Be what you want to be. Go where you want to go. Dream what you want to dream.
You have only one life to live to do whatever you want to do”.
“When you were born, you were crying while everyone was smiling.
Live your life so that at the end you are the one smiling and everyone else is crying”.
When I entered the seminary, she only spoke these words: “Always finish what you have started”.
The season of Lent is for us to remember our identity as sons and Daughters of God, made “bearers of the light” by our baptism into Christ Jesus. The candle given us at baptism is a rich symbol of our mission as Christians: to bring the light of Christ into a world that knows far too much darkness. The baptized Christian shares in the mission of Jesus Christ to bring light where there is darkness, hope where there is despair, truth where there is confusion, love where there is hate.
“The one who does not believe is already condemned”. It would seem to me that this a bit premature. It is like being called an infidel. Think of someone who has not come to Christian belief: is he or she being branded and left with no hope? No, because in another place, John also said: “ The one who believes in the Son has eternal life” (3:36) .
This may also sound premature. The key to it is the word “belief. John could not have imagined that they day would come when believing could mean just a nominal adherence. He would not have called a nominal Christian a believer. And conversely, a nominal disbeliever is not beyond the reach of the Good Shepherd; Jesus lays down His life for His sheep, and thinks of those “other sheep who are not of this fold” (John 10:16). The English word “belief”, which come from the obsolete word “lief”, meant “love”. Shakespeare used this word frequently. Belief without love is not belief at all. It is said that if John were here today and aware of our usage, he might say, “Don’t tell me what you believe; tell me what you love”.
“God is love” (1 John 4:16). God’s very nature is Love, so the ways of God are love. God can never function contrary to His own nature. Never in our lives will God ever express His will towards us in any way other then as an expression of His perfect Love. Two verses describe God’s love to us: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son (John 3:16), and “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us” (1 John: 4:16). This is why God’s heart cry to us is love; “Love one another as I have loved you”.
As sons and daughters of God, it is our nature us well to love and to be loving. And it means loving our neighbors as ourselves, loving someone in our community and anyone we meet. Our enemies are also our neighbor. But how can we love someone who actually hates us? When we love god with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we grow to recognize that everyone is part of His creation.
For us, that is where faith comes in. It is not for us to decide who is following Christ and who is not. We are called to be witnesses to Him and, in order to fulfill that calling, we must love others enough to want them salvation, just as much as Christ does. But, here’s some good news for those who find this teaching difficult: nowhere does it say that we actually have to like our neighbor!
Talking about God is not enough, even when it is Jesus who is talking. “If I am not doing the works of my Father. Do not believe me” (John 10:37). This is the greatest challenge to every preacher like me and every professor of theology. We often talk about “the Christian message” as if it could b written on a piece of paper. The word was made flesh, not ink.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “You are a letter from Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on the tablets of the human heart” (2 Cor. 3:3). We have even coined a word to supplement ”Orthodoxy”; it is “orthopraxis”. Orthodoxy means “right teaching”; orthopraxis would mean “right action”. Our words have to become flesh too.
“What good is it”, wrote St. James, “if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food: if one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead” (Jas 2:14-17)
I also remember my grandmother putting it another way. She used love almost like a bribery and made us love her with condition (after all, she was not a theologian, so it is quite understandable). She used to say, “If you want others to love you, make yourself loveable”. What I actually like about this remark is that love is not demanded from the other. The burden is upon one oneself. Please make yourself loveable. That would it so much easier for others to love you. In fact, when we make ourselves loveable, we are actually loving.
In case, you are wondering, if there is any reward at all to all these. Jesus said, “You will be sons and daughters of the most high”. You will be like my father in heaven, who causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Mtt. 5:45)
The reward is something we will be and not something we will have. In other words, your reward for being loving is that you will be made more capable of endlessly loving…. becoming truly who you are………the beloved Son/daughter of God.