Shine Jesus Shine
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
It was Pope John Paul II, who invited every continent to have a Mission Congress, which was meant to give Catholics a greater consciousness of the Church's Mission, a clearer awareness of what it entails and a deeper commitment to fulfil their calling. Hence the 'Asian Mission Congress' was celebrated from October 18 to 22, 2006, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I had earlier given a retreat to the Bishops and priests of that country. It was organised by the Office of Evangelisation of the Federation of the Asian Bishops' Conference (FABC) to which 1047 representatives from 25 countries were invited. The 50 Indian delegates, inspired by the missionary history of the Church in Asia, and touched by the presentation of the Story of Jesus by different Asian countries, resolved to have an Indian Mission Congress as a follow-up, which proposal was accepted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).
Accordingly, the 'Indian Mission Congress', Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav, was held at the St. Pius X College, Goregaon, Mumbai, India, from October 14 to 18, 2009, with all the Bishops of the country and all the Superiors General resident in India and Rectors of Major Seminaries invited, and with each of the 160 dioceses in India sending seven to nine delegates. The theme of the Congress, "Let Your Light Shine: Become the Message and the Messenger", was obviously meant to call on and to motivate each one of us to make the Light of Christ shine all over India, by our being 'little lights shining', as the popular Negro spiritual, 'This little light of mine, I gonna let it shine', invites us to do, through Word and Witness, thus becoming his messenger and even more personifying his message.
At the very start of St. John's Gospel, which many consider to be the culmination of the Bible, the evangelist proclaims that in Jesus, the Word-Creator-God, "was Life, and that Life was the Light of men - the true Light that gives light to everyman coming into the world" (Jn 1:4,9), while Zechariah hails the yet to be born Jesus as the rising sun, the New Dawn, coming to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death and so to guide our feet into the way of peace (Lk 1:78,79); even as earlier God, who is our light and salvation (Ps 27:2,32), had prophesied, "I will make you a light for the gentiles so that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth" (Is 49:6); and later Jesus himself would proclaim to the people, "I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (Jn 8:12), for "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10); and on Mount Tabor his apostles themselves would behold his face shining as the sun (Mt 17:2), with the glory of God himself (2Cor 4:6).
Already in the Old Testament God had assured his beloved Israel that "the Word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do" (Isaiah 55:11). Thus, "He sent forth his Word - and healed them" (Ps. 107:20). Jesus himself began his public ministry by reading from the Scriptures, in a way that created an awe among the people, and teaching from it in a manner that attracted their admiration both by its newness, so distinct was it from that of their Scribes, and by its power that overawed even the demons (Mk 1:21-27). Already then John the Baptist was declaring to the people that he was sent by God only as a witness to testify that Jesus was indeed that Light of the World, so that through him all men might believe in Him (Jn 1:7). Peter would later proclaim how Jesus, the Light of Life, went all around doing good by the power of the Holy Spirit, and healing everyone who was under the power of the Evil Spirit (Acts 10:38).
Full of the Holy Spirit, after his Baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus began to preach to the crowds in his Sermon on the Mount, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Mt 4:17). But he began to teach his disciples who came to him, "You are the salt of the earth…You are the Light of the World" (Mt 5:13,14). But we will be lights shining in the world only if, like Christ, we know what God wants us to be and to do. The Word of God must therefore first enlighten our minds, for it is looked upon by the Psalmist as "a lamp to my feet, a light on my path" (Ps. 119:105), necessary to discern God's will in every major life situation and thus receive his guidance. The knowledge however of the words of Scripture should lead one to the knowledge of Christ the Word himself. For the Word of God must also penetrate our hearts by bringing us in close contact with the heart of Jesus and not just by distant teaching or training. "Come, follow me", he said to his apostles, "and I will make you fishers of people" (Mt 4:19). That is why he appointed the twelve first of all just to be with him, as his companions, and then only to preach and cast out demons (Mk 3:14; Lk 6:12). As a parting shot he dramatically washed their feet saying, "If I then your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another's feet. Imitate my example" (Jn 13:14,15). And therefore we will be lights of Christ when we strive to emulate Christ the Light in every detail of his life.
How many today are Catholics in name only and are far from being Christians in fact. "Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real" (2Tm 3:5). True, the immediate objective of the disciple of Christ is to grow in faith in the Lord, both as person and as message, but the ultimate goal is to grow in all ways into Christ himself, until he becomes the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself, i.e. another Christ (Eph 4:12-15), so that he can say with Paul, "I no longer live with my own life, but with the life of Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). That is why Paul will not consider his missionary work with his Galatian Christians as over: "until Christ is formed in you and is seen living in you" (Gal 4:19), for God has chosen them for an awe-inspiring purpose 'to become true images of his Son'. God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him, by bringing about a radical and genuine inner transformation of our lives, a spiritual revolution, beginning with the renewal of our minds (Rom 12:2), as we allow the Spirit to change our minds, hearts and wills, and make us new, God-like and Christ-like, persons.
Every man then is an open letter for Jesus to write on, for the only Bible that many will ever read is the open Bibles that we should be, the only Jesus they will ever meet is the Jesus they see in us, and so every Christian is an advertisement for Christianity, as Mother Teresa was. Men will judge Christ by his followers and the Church by its members. When we leave home each day for the office or shop or school or hospital, we have the awesome but humbling responsibility of being open letters and candid advertisements for Christ and his Church. Men will know that we are his disciples if we are honest proclaimers of his word, if we are genuine channels of his love, and if we make a difference in their lives. These are then the three crystal-clear ways in which we can and should be a showpiece for Christianity: by the word we speak, by the love we live and by the zeal we show. God's Word is to be attested above all by one's personal witness inspired by Jesus' exemplary witness, "Love one another - as I have loved you. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples" (Jn 13:34,35).
Finally, that is why Jesus concludes his introduction to the same Sermon on the Mount by appealing to his disciples at the beginning of his ministry, "Therefore let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Mt 5:16), and concludes his Farewell Discourse by challenging them at the end of his ministry, "As the Father has sent me into the world, so I have sent you into the world" (cfr Jn 17:18), for "You did not choose me, no, it was I who have chosen you to go out and bear much fruit … As long as you remain in me and I and my words remain in you, you will bear lasting fruit … And if you bear much fruit my Father is glorified and you show yourselves to be my disciples" (Jn 15:4,5,7,8,16).
Today Jesus is offering us too, as he did the Apostles, the same incredible privilege of sending us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, and is giving us the same overwhelming mandate of going to every country, preaching to every nation, interceding for the needs and burdens of every people, healing the sick, delivering the oppressed and shepherding, feeding and caring for, his flock (Mk 16:15-20; Acts 1:8). He assures us that without us he will not do anything, but at the same time he warns us that without him we can do nothing (Jn 15:5,16). If however we have faith in him and in his Word, he guarantees us that we will perform the same works as he did and even greater ones.
Therefore the main tool of Evangelisation is God's Word itself, which is to be proclaimed always, with authority to rebuke evil, with power to free the oppressed, with love to comfort the broken hearted and with compassion to assure the sinner. We need to make our own the burning passion of Paul who cried out: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" We will then win Paul's congratulations, "You will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the Word of Life" (Phil. 2:15,16). Since we, who were once in darkness, are now the light in the Lord, we should live as children of light (Eph. 5:8), for the man who lives as a true son of the light, as the countless martyrs and the innumerable saints in the Catholic Church did, makes the divine light present in him shine before men (1Jn 1:5ff).
What more appropriate prayer could we then have made during this National Mission Congress than the theme song of the International Ecumenical Charismatic Evangelisation Convention held in Brighton, England, in 1991:
Lord, the light of your love is shining,
In the midst of the darkness shining,
Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us,
Set us free by the truth you now bring us.
Shine on me, shine on me.
Shine, Jesus, shine,
Fill this land with the Father's glory,
Blaze, Spirit, blaze,
Set our hearts on fire,
Flow, river, flow,
Flood the nation with grace and mercy,
Send forth your word,
Lord, and let there be light.
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