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Thursday, September 1, 2011

From Darkness to Light

He delivered us from the power of darkness. Col 1:13

Often it helps to know something about the background and setting for the scriptures.  Paul’s letter to the Colossians, like most of his letters and instructions, is responding to a particular difficulty that arose in the  nascent church of Colossae. Apparently, some new converts, anxious to help the people of Colossae understand the gospel and its relationship to older religious practices, began to emphasize the universe and angels, as well as  dietary laws and ascetical practices. Paul’s disciple Epaphras, who came from Colossae, unsure of how to respond to these newer converts and their teaching, asks Paul for his wisdom. And Paul is clear. While the universe, angels, and ascetical practices all will have their place in an authentic gospel life, Christ must be at the center of the mystery of faith.

There is a wonderful lesson here for us.  At times, anxious to become attractive to a new generation of young people or to compete with other denominations or religions, we can hear ourselves strategizing about how to “get them into church.”  We change the music, use videos, add liturgical dance, and ask the young to serve as ministers of the word and Eucharist.  While all of these adaptations might be good and helpful, if they only get the young to come to church, they are not enough.  A gospel life, while concerned with discipline and Sunday worship, must be rooted in the mystery of Christ and his call to total transformation of life.  Paul wanted the people of Colossae to understand this and it remains a good lesson for us. The practices and disciplines of the church like fasting and Sunday Eucharist have only one purpose: they are to help us remember in whom we are rooted, the Christ of God who has promised to be with us and guide us all days, even to the end of time.

Come to think of it, Paul’s wisdom can get us praying about many issues that impact our everyday lives. When have we found ourselves insisting rigidly about an opinion we hold or an interpretation of Catholic teaching and forget the person standing in front of us?  Have we been so concerned with being right, that we let our pride get in the way of our relationships in Christ?  Christ wants to deliver us "from the power of darkness”, but we have to make ourselves available to him.

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