Last week’s Sunday Gospel (Mt 5:13-16) spoke beautifully, warning us to keep our lights burning brightly before the world. It’s something of a theme taken up during the weekly Office of Readings in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Having left them to continue his missionary journeys, Paul hears that the Galatians have fallen back into a dependence on earthly laws of the Old Covenant rather than a focus on faith and the New Law of grace. Nearing the end of the letter, the Apostle asks a question that touched me deeply,
“…you know that it was because of a physical illness that I originally preached the gospel to you and you did not show disdain or contempt because of the trial caused you by my physical condition, but rather you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. Where now is that blessedness of yours? Indeed, I can testify to you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.”
Despite his limitations, Paul’s first preaching must’ve been so full of life and hope. The zeal of his former days transformed into an evangelism that clearly shined for the Galatians. So excited were their souls that they would’ve torn out their own eyes; such a vivid, if macabre image. What happened to them? What happens to us that dims the zeal of beginnings hiding our light under a bushel basket?
Sometimes I notice it my own life. Ministry becomes routine. A dense fog of paperwork, politics and policy clog the air threatening to drown my excitement, my hope. Even those who first preached the Gospel to me seem far off, burdened perhaps by their own fog. And I hear Paul’s question, “Where now is that blessedness of yours?” Then… just as things seem darkest a new light…or rather a re-newed light sparks. It happens in my morning prayers each day. It doesn’t come from earthly preachers, nor any other secular circumstance but from the Truth and the Love that I have known; his name is Jesus. Whatever happened to the sower, the seed seed has sprouted and is now autonomous within me. My relationship with the Lord can be ever old and ever new… and no one can extinguish it.
The month of February was once explicitly dedicated to preparation for Lent, such was the wisdom of the old church calendar. There’s no reason for that not to be the case today. Pray! Pray during this month to prepare for the warfare of Lent. Renew your zeal. In winter’s coldest weeks pray for new warmth and light! So that we can enter into Lent with our lamps held aloft, guiding us all to new heights of holiness.