Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being, so utterly, that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us, and be so in us, that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus! Stay with us, and then we shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus will be all from you. None of it will be ours; it will be you shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way that you love best—by shining on those around us. Amen.John Henry Newman
In late May while on Sabbatical, I was being taken across rural Wyoming in a pickup truck driven by a dear young man, and we were soaking in the beauty. We came up out of a deep valley to a flatter plain at high elevation, and I saw something in the sky and said, “Stop! There it is! That right there is what the Christian life is all about. That right there is what human existence is all about!” We sat and looked at it, pondered it, and then talked about it, and kept on driving on a blue-sky day.
The sun is not in this picture, but you can still see its light. That cloud is not light, but it contains light. It is radiant because of the light shining through it, not because it is the light itself. The cloud transmits light. That greater light, the sun, is shining through it. It’s luminous. Because of the cloud, I’m aware of the sun in a way I would not have been if that cloud wasn’t in the sky. If the sun goes away, the cloud neither shimmers nor shines.
This is a picture of the Christian life and indeed the point of human existence for every man, woman, and child. It is a picture of union with God through Christ, of Jesus living in us by his Holy Spirit such that our lives radiate his presence, such that our presence becomes his presence in the world so that God can be both seen and known.
God being seen and known…this is why Jesus came into the world in flesh, and he was light.
“What has come into being in Jesus was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me…will have the light of life.” (Jesus in John 8:12)
“Believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” (Jesus in John 12:36)
Have you ever thought of yourself, who you actually are in Christ, as a son or a daughter of light? Do you ever think of “shining” as a fundamental aspect of your vocation as a Christian? Beyond what we say and even beyond what we do, do we realize that part of our deepest calling in Christ is simply to shine with the light of Christ in us? Can we hear this as a sweet invitation—to shine—to a deeper life in God?
“You are the light of the world…Let your light shine before others.” (Jesus in Matt. 5:14-16)
“[In the midst of darkness], you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)
Or to put that another way…”You are luminous in the world”
Mother Teresa is well known for what she did, but the most profound thing about her for those she encountered was simply who she was. She emanated light. Her mere presence changed people… Malcolm Muggeridge was an atheist when he met her. He would later write, “Something of God’s universal love has rubbed off on Mother Teresa, giving her homely features a noticeable luminosity.” There it is, luminosity. Light. Shining. Luminous. Mother Teresa, and many others, have shown us that people can glow—because God lives inside them through Jesus.
Friends, Yes, there is a lot of darkness in our world right now. Our hearts are very heavy over what is going on in Israel and Palestine today. Our hearts might be heavy about what is going on in our personal lives today. There is always a lot of darkness in the world. And yet, God’s answer to darkness is light. It always is. God sent The Light, and he keeps sending lights by sending us to shine in the darkness.
This is how it works. We too are those who lived in darkness. Jesus comes into the world as light, and by his mercy we have been drawn to it and believed in him, and when we do, Jesus’ Spirit enters us so that we too can shine his light into the world.
It’s not us. It’s Jesus living in us, his Spirit shining through us, his life being lived through our lives, our bodies being his body, our hands being his hands, our radiance being his own shining through us.
Again, this is Paul in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives in me.”
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells us who we are, and in our identity is our vocation. “You are the light of the world.” He does not say to us, “I hope you’ll be the light of the world,” or “Maybe you’ll be the light of the world.” No, “You ARE the light of the world.”
This is our identity as followers of Jesus, this is our vocation as his disciples. We get to be light in order to bear witness to the light. We get to be luminous to continue the mission of him who brought light into the darkness.
To be light, to shine with Jesus’ light is our identity, our vocation, and the invitation God makes to us. And, nature, creation, speaks to us of this and reminds us of it. Or to put that another way, the nature of light itself speaks to us of this.
Reflecting on these things over my Sabbatical earlier this year, I began seeing, literally seeing, reminders of this invitation and vocation to shine with Jesus’ light, to glow because God lives in us, in me. And sometimes I took pictures to remind me of this invitation, this vocation, this pursuit.
I invite you to spend the next 10 minutes or so, reflecting on these images with God.
- Consider this beautiful invitation Jesus makes to us…’I want to live more fully in you so that you shine.’ Perhaps give him your ‘Yes.’
- Let yourself be lost in this invitation to become luminous, lost in the wonder of the beauty of Jesus and the glory of God
- You may want to ask Jesus to more fully possess you so that you radiate his love and truth
- You may want to offer any prayers that emerge from your soul
- However you are with God in this time, deeply know that God is radiant love, and God loves you, even right now
You may want to take a moment and pray this prayer to yourself:
Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being, so utterly, that our lives may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through us, and be so in us, that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Let them look up and see no longer us but only Jesus! Stay with us, and then we shall begin to shine as you shine; so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus will be all from you. None of it will be ours; it will be you shining on others through us. Let us thus praise you in the way that you love best—by shining on those around us. Amen.
(John Henry Newman)
On the Journey,
P.S.— I recently offered this as a “Space for God” reflection, which includes a guided prayer exercise at the end, so check that out if you’re interested!