Have you ever felt dissatisfied and unfulfilled with your life? Do you ever feel as if you are missing out on something important or falling just short of some goal or purpose? Maybe you are unable to put adequate words to this feeling, you just know there is something out of balance in your life—something lacking.
We sometimes experience this as a vague feeling of uneasiness, at other times as a major emotional challenge. At still other times we may not notice it at all, but it is likely hiding just below the surface.
There is no doubt that we live in a time that has produced an unprecedented, high number of self-help gurus and their books, magazines, centers and offices.
I believe the answer can be found in today’s scripture readings at Mass for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A).
In the Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus tells his apostles—and us—that we are the salt of the earth.
“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.”-Matthew 5:13)
Yes, Jesus was speaking to his disciples, particularly his apostles who would soon shoulder great responsibilities in the early life of the Church, but he was also addressing those of us who would follow.
Each of us, by virtue of our baptism, is incorporated into the Body of Christ and “share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1268).
Jesus also teaches us that we are the light of the world.
“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.”-Matthew 5:14-16
It is clear that Jesus see us—and common sense tells us—that unbelievers will judge the Christian faith by the lived example of those who claim to be Christian.
In the context of the Gospel passage, these two sayings are both a warning and an encouragement to us all. This is the life to which we who have said yes to Christ have been called. It is both a great responsibility and a great blessing.
WHAT PRACTICAL QUESTIONS SHOULD WE ASK OURSELVES TODAY?
Jesus tells us that we must love God above all and also love one another (see Matthew 22:34-40).
- Do I plan my schedule around my love for Christ as the first priority or do I fit Jesus in only where convenient?
- Do I place the needs of others before my own needs and wants?
- When people look at me, are they attracted to Christ or discouraged from knowing him?
Until I place God and others before myself, I will not live according to God’s plan and design. Until then, I will not live authentically according to my nature and the dignity of my personal call to communion with God.
Now be truthful with yourself. How often have you wanted to be more, to live more in Christ, but just could not find the time. The reason is because we place the temporal, passing things of this world above the eternal gifts and blessings of the life to come.
When the end of your days arrives, what will be more important to you—the business and priorities of this short life or the eternal realities we too often neglect?
SO WHY DO I KEEP MAKING THE SAME WRONG CHOICES?
We know all this, right? So why do we keep making the same wrong choices?
I believe we fail to trust in the One Who made us and sustains us. We trust ourselves instead. Now is that rational? Not by anyone’s definition of the word.
In the second reading, St. Paul alludes to the secret of living a successfully authentic life… rely on the power of God and acknowledge and accept our own weakness.
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”-1 Corinthians 2:1-5
In the first reading, Isaiah proclaims that living justly—particularly in regards to the suffering and afflicted—is to walk with the Lord in blessing.
“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am. If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”-Isaiah 58:7-11
HOW TO FIND AND KEEP FOCUS
In general, we must nourish our faith by living a prayerful, sacramental and just life—giving God and one another their due.
For many, this will require a radical change in the practice of the faith. Too many lives are incomplete and restless because priorities are upside down and backwards. Trust Jesus and this can change overnight. It is time to get right with the Lord!
Here are practical steps for a change in approach to living the faith throughout the day.
- Decide to trust Christ more than yourself. Then surrender to His Will. Ask Jesus for the grace to remain faithful to this decision. In your weakness, rely on His strength.
- Begin each day with prayer before you do anything else. Give praise and thanksgiving to God. Thank Him for seeing you safely through the night and granting you the blessings of a new day. Ask His help to live the day conformed to His plan for you. Offer all your efforts to His greater glory.
- As you plan your day, give first priority to God, don’t relegate Him to what time is left over. Make sure that you set aside prime time for prayer. Without prayer, no progress can be made. If possible attend Mass on days when not required.
- Throughout the day, ask God to help you to see the people He places in your path, to know and understand His purpose in the encounter, and the courage to do as He asks. Seek to help those in need, kind to all, returning love for anger. Live your faith in joy.
- When the opportunity arises, be ready to share with all the reason for your joyful faith.
- Take inventory of how you fared during the day, asking the Lord to see your day as He sees it. Be encouraged by your successes and resolve to correct your failings by His grace.
- At the beginning and end of each day, ask for His protection, wisdom, correction and consolation
Into the deep…
Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) — Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalms 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; First Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16.
Image credit: Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
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