Not too many decades ago, it was normal to pray a blessing before meals. In full public view, we would trace the Sign of the Cross on our foreheads, thank God for sustaining us, and acknowledge that Jesus Christ was THE center of our lives.
But today, for various reasons, such witness is rare. Perhaps this is so because many have adopted a “personal” practice of religion and have consciously agreed not to “impose” it upon others. Furthermore, when merged with the reality that a growing segment of society ascribes to no religious practice; out of respect for them, we go along with their life choices and abandon our own faithfulness. Through our multicultural political correctness, it has become our mission to not offend or bring discomfort to others, especially in regard to the teachings of Christ or His Church. Given this, I submit that by following this path of least resistance and succumbing to what might be called “spiritual shyness,” we have sacrificed one of the major obligations of our Christian faith: to be salt and light to a world in great need of spiritual formation.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is recorded in the first several verses of the fifth chapter. And after the many invocations, Jesus then turns His attention to salt and light…
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.
Salt and Light? You and me? Can’t we just go along and get along? After all, rocking boats and drawing attention to ourselves is not for the faint of heart. In the two-thousand year history of the Church, there are great figures from which to draw upon who were spiritually shy. In his book, More Saintly Solutions, Fr. Joseph Esper offers up the brothers Peter and Andrew.
Both were apostles, but their temperaments were quite different. Peter was outgoing, impetuous, and anything but shy- making him, in spite of his weaknesses and sins, a logical choice as the leader of the Apostles. In all likelihood, Andrew was quite different. The Gospels don’t directly tell us so, but he seems to have been much quieter and more reserved. (With someone like Peter as a brother, this is hardly surprising; indeed, it would have been surprising had it been otherwise). Nonetheless, Jesus chose him, and He knew what He was doing. Along with St. Paul, Andrew, and all the other apostles- unique men with a wide range of talents and temperaments- became, through their empowerment by the Holy Spirit, the greatest and most important missionaries in history.
And while we may not be known as the greatest and most important missionaries in history, in our own circles of influence (e.g., our families, friends, parish community, town, and workplace), we are nevertheless the vessels Jesus chooses to work with and through; especially that by the witness of our lives, we may be a sign of Christ for others. At our baptism, each of us was anointed priest, prophet, and king. Profound responsibilities, wouldn’t you say, that have been given to the spiritually shy.
Given that Thanksgiving Day is nearly two months away, it is not too early to begin thanking the Lord. After all, does not the Greek word, eucharistia, mean thanksgiving? And should not our participation in the Table of the Lord make us a people intent upon sharing and being that which we have received; namely, the Body of Christ?
And so, today, let this be our resolve: that before a fork is lifted and with others in clear view, may we thank the Lord first and pray…
Bless us, O’ Lord, with these thy Gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
It’s that easy.