“Quick! Look at the water!”
I rolled my eyes. I was knee-deep in scraping dried chocolate off the floor, and the darn stuff wasn’t coming off. It was day eight of our 10-day beach trip and it had rained every day since we arrived. I’d spent the whole trip playing director to an increasingly mutinous crew and by that evening I had had enough.
The fudge-pop stripes on the laminate didn’t do much to improve my mood.
“Seriously, honey. Look at the water!”
My knees creaked with repeated use but through the front windows I could see what had drawn his attention. The surface of the river stood completely still, reflecting a blazing sun like fire.
Time stopped and I threw down my scrubber. I grabbed my phone and barely slid on my shoes. Three sun-kissed and barefoot children chased me across the lawn and down to the water.
We had to get there before the sun dipped below view.
We stood on the shore for fifteen minutes and watched what felt like the face of God. Purple clouds were so low I could almost touch them; liquid fire rippled at my toes.
Yes it had been a rainy and disappointing 10 days. But God’s grace and mercy provided us with the most beautiful experience we could have asked for — an intimate encounter with hope. It is the parallel for what we as Catholics are called to bring to our darkened world. We are called to be a beacon of hope for the nations. Here are five ways to set down that road.
5 simple ways to be a beacon of hope
Receive the sacraments
I’ve never forgotten the old Baltimore Catechism definition of a sacrament: an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace. I think of it especially when I see friends who attend daily Mass and attend Reconciliation frequently – they exude a beautiful sense of peace.
When you receive the sacraments on a regular basis, God fills you with holy grace. It is his favor, and cannot help but shine through us when it resides within our souls. Go to confession. Receive the Eucharist. Participate as fully as you can. Absorb his love and let it work through you. Those around you will notice, and want to have what you have.
Be in the world, but not of it
I get it – evangelization is scary. But how will anyone come to know the true, the good, and the beautiful if we aren’t living it in front of their eyes? Befriend those who aren’t like you, who think differently from the Catholic worldview. Have open, honest, respectful conversations. Let your light shine freely in a darkened world.
In his Lenten message for 2016, Pope Francis wrote that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy “remind us that faith finds expression in concrete, everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting, and instructing them.” While volunteer work won’t always involve the spiritual side of things, the act of aiding the human person in a physical way communicates God’s love for his people. As a result, it’s important for us to be involved in the community as often as we can, and to bring our children along, too.
Yep – the good old random act of kindness is a great way to be a ray of hope. Even a simple smile or an encouraging word goes a long way toward brightening another person’s day.
Study the true and the good
Spend some time reading the works of the saints, especially those of Mother Teresa and Maximilian Kolbe. These two holy people radiated God’s goodness and peace despite living and working in the most desperate of conditions. Let their words be of comfort and guidance to you, and you’ll be able to bring that light to others.
These are indeed trying times, the sort which, as Louise Penny says, reveal character rather than create it. Let your words, your deeds, your encounters with others reveal the hope within you.
Copyright 2017 Ginny Kochis
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