processional cross

Live as Children of Light

by Fr. David May

While you were on vacation in late July and early August, here was I writing this article for the October Restoration. Now many of you who are reading this page are back to school, back to work, backed up on the freeway or the beltway.

Meanwhile, I have backed off from my usual work responsibilities for a longer break than usual. It’s very laid back, something I appreciate after twelve years of being a DG (director-general). I hope I will make the best of this time.

Time . . . There’s a verse in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (5:16) which, in one translation, reads, redeeming the time because the days are evil. That’s my favorite of the translations.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I find appealing this idea of “redeeming” evil days, that is, “buying them back” for God by setting them free from bondage of one kind or another.

But I must admit I don’t know how to do it. One can strive to use time well, but redeem it for God…? What does that mean? After all, there is only one Redeemer of the world, space and time, Jesus Christ. And who but Christ can know what to do when the days are evil?

Speaking of which, I haven’t written much lately about these evil days we are living through. Need I make a list to add to other lists already existing of anti-life legislation, judicial manipulation, the madness of violence against the innocent?

Of amorality, immorality and just plain nastiness in politics? Of statements, counterstatements, and endless commentaries on same in the Church?

Will it do me any good to write about them or you any good to read still another article about how evil the days are? More importantly, will more doom and gloom about doom and gloom “redeem the time”?

Suffice it to say I am acutely aware of all of the above as I meditate on “redeeming the time,” that is, this time, this moment of salvation being offered to all of us even as I write these words.

What did St. Paul recommend to the church in Ephesus in his day? Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth . . . .Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather, expose them (Eph 5: 8b-9, 11). Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (5:10).

When we live as children of light, we expose the darkness. So the best argument revealing hatred for what it really is . . . is Christian kindness and forgiveness.

Greed? Generosity towards the less fortunate and an embrace of evangelical poverty. Post-modern despair? Christian hope in the day of trial and deep compassion for those who lack it.

Distortions in understanding sexuality? Chaste, celibate love and joyful, fruitful, Christian marriage. At least, that’s what St. Paul seems to imply from what he writes here.

We can forget at times that love is stronger than death and that the darkness could not and cannot overcome the light shining from Jesus Christ.

All the same, how pitiful our efforts to bear witness to the truth of Christ can seem when we see fellow Christians and also Christian values suffer defeat after defeat. How is the light exposing darkness in these situations? How is Christ redeeming the time?

I would answer: the same as ever. By the foolishness of the Cross.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God . . .

For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1: 18, 22-24).

I mention this because if you and I choose to follow Christ, to rejoice in simply being Catholic Christians following the teachings of Mother Church, committed to kindness towards enemies and merciful compassion to all, at some point it’s going to seem foolish at best and at its worst, futile.

Of course, maybe you will have a sense of the triumph of Christ in your life no matter what happens. If so, praise God! But just in case . . .

Many people I know must bear as part of their “work of mercy” redeeming the time, the anguish of Jesus Christ: Father, let this cup pass. . . . My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? . . . I thirst.

Yes, it comes in many forms, but often as a deep sense of emptiness or darkness of understanding or struggles with temptations against faith or perseverance.

These are great moments in our faith journey! More helpless than ever, we must constantly call on Christ to save us and even to make continuing on possible.

Now his power can be more fully revealed, for we are truly nailed to the cross with him.

Yes, at some point the shadow of the cross falls across our lives. Paradoxically, it brings not more darkness but a divine light of mercy for many.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). So death is at work in us, but life in you (2 Cor 4:12). Yet who is more alive than the one undergoing such a death!

It is not only St. Paul who teaches these things, but also Catherine Doherty, in both her life and her writings. But that’s another story.

Hmm. Maybe things aren’t as laid back as I thought!