November Fire

I don’t know about you, but I always hate this first week after we come off of Daylight Saving Time: it’s dark when I get up, and it’s getting dark by the time I come home again in the early evening. There are always projects I’m trying to complete outside before the snow arrives, but it’s really too dark and chilly by the time I get home. The early darkness makes me want to hibernate in the house and not come out until spring returns.
There are those times when we all feel like we want to be away from the world and just crawl under a rock and hide. Some of us prefer to remain invisible all the time rather than allow others to see us or to expect something from us. Sometimes this is because we think our opinion doesn’t matter, or we fear that others won’t listen to us seriously. Other times, this desire not to be seen or heard happens when we are feeling hurt, angry, or cynical about the world. Though we may be naturally shy, it is also possible that our hiding ourselves is an indication of something else.

Whenever we pretend we are invisible, when we withhold our true feelings and thoughts, when we think our opinions don’t matter to anyone, we are really only trying to hide from ourselves. We may try to live life as inconspicuously as possible, but inevitably more and more attention comes our way because we are trying to stifle the Spirit’s life within us—something contrary to our very nature. Jesus assures us that none of us was created to hide: indeed, we are to embrace the idea of being “light of the world.” We are each called to shine in the darkness, regardless of our shyness or fears, and to bring our own unique brilliance to bear on illuminating the world. When we try to dim that light, or pretend that we don’t need to do this as part of our Christian vocation, we are only fooling ourselves. We are called to share the grace and life we ourselves have received. We are not called to deprive the people around us of the unique gifts and talents with which we have been gifted.

In my family, the unspoken rule was that unpleasant or negative emotions were to be suppressed at all costs—for the sake of “family unity.” Ironically, though, people who had serious issues with others suffered, their relationships within the family suffered, with the sad result being that gossiping and condemning people without their knowledge became commonplace. There was no healthy outlet for expressing frustrations or disappointments. This was because people suppressed their opinions and insights and the effects were devastating for the entire family unit. And instead of “family unity” we came to a place of family mistrust and suspicion—the very opposite of the original intentions.

Stepping out of the shadows and letting your light shine is actually a way to create trust and an attitude of service to something bigger than ourselves. As individuals, we each bear the Gospel mandate to serve our neighbors, and we can’t possibly do this without becoming vulnerable enough to be seen. Hiding who we are and what we perceive as God’s design in our lives does no one any good. We are called to be beings of the Divine Light, invited to shine light on the dark path for others. When we surrender our reluctance and let ourselves shine, we become a bright mirror in which others can perceive their own brilliance, and through the sheer divine radiance that we share, both they and us will want to shine even brighter. As the dark days of November continue to decrease our physical light, now is the perfect time to resolve to be light even more generously than before. As we share our gifts, we create other points of light, and soon enough the entire world will be aglow with the fire of God’s love.

Wishing you a week of brilliance,
Fr. Michel

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About frmichelrcc

I have a degree in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin, did graduate work in theology at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, and also at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. I have been a Benedictine since I first professed as an oblate in 1982, making final profession in 2009. I have worked as vocations director in a large diocese in the mid-west and am a spiritual director in the Benedictine tradition. I have 3 sons, one of whom is now in God's loving embrace in eternity, and 2 grandsons, Bradley and Jacob.
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