One of the good features of the modern Liturgy is that our dismissal from the Mass follows very quickly on from our Communion. We are bidden to take Christ out into the world with us and share His life with all we meet.
This is really telling us that our prayer life must always be channelled into good works and balanced with our doing. They complement each other, and they both become only truly fruitful when we understand we are part of a living community. In other words we live out what is meant by sharing. Sharing can only result when we recognize the life of God in every person and situation, and of course God within us.
What do we share? We share an unlimited generosity and complete self-giving of self, love, energy, time and talent. There is an almost compelling instinct within us to give, and to give abundantly. "Man indeed is most God-like when he gives himself without measure"
When we share in this spirit it bonds us to each other as our real brothers and sisters in Christ. There is or should be a love impulse within us which radiates from us to our brethren.
The kernel of prayer is not only to hear the voice of Christ, but the voice of every person I meet in whom Christ addresses me. I hear it or should hear it in my next door neighbour, the bus-driver, the check-out clerk, the milkman and so on. We must never forget the purpose for celebrating Christmas, is that God became incarnate in order that we might see His face in every face. Thus every face is an icon of Christ.
There are some who think they can only imitate Christ by living away from others. However if we believe we can only aspire to Christ's ideal of living, separating ourselves from others, then we have a warped concept of the meaning of the Gospel. Of course it is much easier to live alone, and think that is the way we can become a "saint", but if we think saintliness comes from sheer self-indulgence in our own company, then we are very much mistaken why Christ entered our world. Saintliness will only result when we become a community-oriented person in which we share all kinds of loving experiences, but also feelings of rejection, hurt, pain, neglect, bitterness, grudges, misunderstanding, and resentment. It is costly to live with others as we share our whole self with them. However nothing less is acceptable to Him who gave everything for us. We are required to:
Surrender your right to another
surrender your rights to the other
whether friend or foe let them go
Christ is always the other.
If we are going to be able to share each day with others, it means we must always be at God's disposal at the beginning of each day. He will make it possible for us to live a beautiful life each day in living out His will, that is, living for Christ in others.
On our earthly pilgrimage we are a steward not an owner of what we have and are. We are a steward for God and His whole family.
There are two ways
of bringing into communion
the diversity of particular gifts:
the love of sharing
and the sharing of love.
Thus the particular gift becomes common
to him who has it
and to him who has it not:
he who has it
communicates it by sharing,
he who has it not
particiaptes by communion.
Every day is a good time for us to understand that sharing means always thinking in terms of "ours" rather than "mine". We pray "Our Father who art in heaven", not "My Father". Nothing is ever really "mine" - all that I or you have is given to us by God as a gift - a gift of love - in order to be shared with others. If I think in terms of "mine, it is alien to the relationship of mutual love; if it is His and I possess it from day to day, from split second to split second, it is a continuously renewed act of divine love." It means I am living in the kingdom of God rather than kingdom of worldliness. Thus the idea of "that is mine", or being possessive about anything or any person stifles any real giving to others, in other words, being able to share.
The most active of sharing often seems the most passive to a bystander. Take for example LISTENING. To listen, really listen to another person, to a sound of nature, to God's presence is probably the most active we can ever be.
Listening to another person is the most precious thing except loving we can give to another. Obviously it springs from love. Listening "means giving our undivided attention to another person." It means forgetting what we want to say and be. It means emptying ourselves completely so that we can concentrate on the person with us. What SHARING DOES TAKE PLACE when we listen to one another. We should try to make each day a listening day in order to hear what is really being said to us by others.
We must share our gifts or talents as we have no life but that in our neighbour, as part of the community in which we live. Talents given to us must not be hoarded but used gracefully and abundantly and shared all around. As we are all given different talents by God it is logical, isn't it, that we have need of the talents of others as they have need of ours for our community to function at its best.
We have to remember that each talent is of the same worth in the eyes of God. Washing of the altar linen by the women is just as important as the singing by the choir; or typing letters by the secretary is just as necessary to the running of a company as the management by the director.
Each of us is bless with talents or gifts. Some of those we have not yet discovered. The wonderful thing about handing over our lives to the Living Spirit is that we discover over and over again talents we never dreamt possible for us to have and give. We do have to live in anticipation of being blessed more and more with gifts from the Spirit - gifts to share with others.
Love is the most powerful and positive thing in the world; it is "the noblest passion and highest felicity which the soul is capable of in this, or the life to come." Without it we are like a body without its soul. We know we cannot truly love God if we do not love the person with whom we live and work. "There is nothing that makes man more like to God than love." Our doing becomes a mechanical action if it is not done in love and radiate love.
Love is not about judging but about understanding. Love draws out our compassion and concern for others. Love means dying to those selfish feelings and attitudes which destroy and harm others. The love we give to others, ideally, should be an imitation of the love of Christ. Yet we are all guilty, aren't we, of doing much very reluctantly and grumpily for one another, and we all know those whom for us it is hard to love.
We all know as wonderful as love is, at times it is also the most difficult thing to do, even after we have prayed to be able to love a particular person. We all have people in our lives with whom we have great difficulty in loving. How can we love that person whose very habits of living pierce the sensitivity of our souls? A very dear priest friend of mine, often prays that when we find it hard to love someone, let us always act as love should. If we act as Love should, then we shall indeed feel love. It is the love that St. Francis showed when he embraced the leper on that lonely Umbrian road. Love means reaching out, and touching and embracing.
So what must we endeavour to do to enable us to embrace our leper? Firstly we have to expose ourselves as much as possible to God's love. That is why for me being present at the daily Eucharist is crucial. I know without Him I am a frail shell, but here "Love [bids] me welcome" and Love gives Himself to me. "If Love carry us to the Lover of souls, we cannot come too often to this Holy Table." Having Love within me, and being assured of God's love to every creature, I can start afresh of telling myself that God loves this person very much and he/she is very precious to Him. He/she is made in the image of God, and to deny that person love, is to deny Christ. That helps tremendously.
Secondly, praying when you find the situation almost intolerable is also positive. Try to place that person in God's loving hands and out of your own. The prayers which I find helpful are our Lord's prayers, firstly "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us", and secondly those words from the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Sometimes a person can be quiet oblivious of the stress he/she burdens another with. In these situations, lay it at the foot of the cross, offer it up and leave it there. Once that has been done, it is possible to see the person rather than the irritation, and to see him/her as Christ's child too. Then we can give ourselves a chance to love. At such times of irritation I am quite aware that one often feels more like exploding but I can assure you if you make yourself pray it does work, many times. The other positive reflection at such times is that giving in to our annoyance it shows that we are lacking the self-discipline that in a sense we are criticizing. That sobers one! "Cast out the beam in your own eye first."
The sensual is also very important in loving others. Our eyes convey our feelings very much (not only love and warmth, but alas hatred, anger and indifference) and that is why eye contact is always essential in conversation. You must look at the person to whom you are speaking. I am sure you are aware how awful it is to speak to another person who never looks at you, and what a demoralizing effect it has! However it is in our touching another person that we probably convey the most warmth and love. Our skins are very sensitive, and when one reaches out, and takes another's hand or puts one's arm around that person, love is communicated. Often touching are our words. Thus for those nearest to us, but often hardest to love, learn to put a hand on the shoulder. It says so much, and you will be amazed at what it does for you!
We must remember the opposite from loving is living in hell because hell is the only place exclusive of Love. Thus for the Christian there is only one course, and that of course is to love, and to love unconditionally. We know this will bring frustrations, disappointments, rejections, tears and our heart will break into many pieces very often, and sometimes it will be agonizing to pick up those pieces. That is the risk we take, but living out the Christian life is after all a risky business. The comfort is that our dear Saviour has already been there. No heart shattered as His did as He looked upon the world from His cross.
The more we love, the more we want to share with all those we meet each day. It is only love that cuts across every barrier in life; it is only love which will result in reconciliation of families, members of different churches and different races. Love always demands sharing.
We also have to share what we are with others, that is, those traits which make us different from anyone else. This in fact means sharing our personalities with those around us. All of us have been made uniquely. It is the collection of these UNIQUENESSES which makes the WHOLE. Thus uniqueness will always be likened to leaven if projected in the right way. We all have something to give by being ME. We should never feel ashamed of the real me!
We share too what we call our earthly possessions. How wrong is the attitude which tries to amass as much wealth and grandeur in this life. Everything we have is given to us on loan -a very temporary one at that. As John Newman expressed it, Christians "Are called to be strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and so that their worldly goods are a sort of accident of their existence, and that they really have no property" at all. Hence as Christians we are not to be possessive, but cheerfully want to share or give what we have with our fellow brothers and sisters. As our example we have the early church in Antioch of how this should be lived out.
We should also share prayer time and spiritual things with our friends. Don't feel timid about this. When you visit with another don't be abashed about talking about the kingdom of God, and also praying together. Praying should be as natural as chatting.
To share all the above means giving one of the most precious commodities God has given us - TIME. Time, the finite, is given to us by God, the infinite, who is timeless. Time should be used to glorify Him in how we use it, knowing that when we enter the realm of timelessness, the only activity which will not cease is glorifying God. Without end, I will praise your name.
Sad to say though so many people go through life without acknowledging this. Just as sad is to hear someone say: "I have not time to do that!" But we usually have time to do the things we want. Sadder still when we hear an elderly person say to a member of his/her family, "Have you time to do that for me?" or, "Have you time to listen to this?" - as if it is almost sacrosanct to trespass upon another person's time.
As Christians we should realize we shall be judged on how we have used the concept of time in God's timelessness. If our day is given to God, then we shall want to spend that day as God would have us. For some of us the perimeter is already defined by our work situation. Here we spend a fair part of each day. Yet the criterion is still basically the same, How do we use our time at work? Is it honestly spent in pursuit for what we are paid? Do we give of our best? Do we turn the other cheek? Do we rush off as soon as we are able? Do we help those with problems? During our lunch break do we ignore people we meet? And so the list could go on.
Within our families are we truly spent? Do we go more than the extra mile? When we return from work are we prepared to give our time to our children? Or are we very selfish and self-indulgent? Or if our families are grown up and living away, do we make the effort to keep in constant contact, and to make sure our home is still home for them.
What about our friends and those living around us? How do we feel and react when we are about to go out, and the bell rings? Do we always see people more important than our routine or even work pattern? How we respond to such prodding will determine the depth of our Christian commitment. This in turn will enlighten us how much we live out Christ's ideal of sharing with others, that is, to be my brother's keeper.
Of course genuine sharing always brings with it the element of risk. People will play on our generosity. Yet the whole living out of the Christian life is a risk. The moment we allow the Spirit to direct our days, we risk because we do not know where that Spirit will lead. However we must always remember, "No man is an island", as John Donne reminded us. And it is true. We cannot live lively and positively unto ourselves. Lent gives us a time to reflect on how we use our time.
To share of ourselves as Christ demands means we must spend time with Him on the mount so that we too can be made radiant from the giver of love. Then we must trek down to the plain, that is, to the everyday situations in which we find ourselves and communicate that love with all those with whom we rub shoulders.