All I wanted to do after seeing the movie, Of Gods and Men, is be quiet. It took me by surprise. The story is about a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community. The majority Islamic community and the monks are squeezed between a corrupt government and Muslum extremists. The movie captures the silence of their existence on the hilltop and the articulation of faith as lived in service and love towards their neighbors.
As I sit in my dorm room, I can't get the images and themes of the story of the monks' sacrifice out of my head. The story, however, is not about death; the story is about life itself. It is not so much that the monks died for their faith, but rather they lived in faith. In the midst of extreme poverty, death, fear and uncertainty, they strived to live. They chose to leave the comfort of family and home. They chose to take up their cross and die to themselves. Though they lost their former life, they found a new life as brothers and in living out the gospel imperitive to love their neighbors in Algeria.
The story is also about hope and incarnation. The generosity of the incarnation lies in mystery of its multiplication. God comes down from heaven to dwell among us and in us. In the waters of baptism we are born into new life and God makes our hearts a dwelling place. We are called to express Jesus incarnate to the world. We are also, each one of us, the incarnation. With God's indwelling Spirit we re-present Love to a world in need of it.
Psalm 82, in verses 6-7, suggests that we are gods and children of the Most High. Though we share mortality with humankind, we also share in the divinity of Christ. His presence among us and his words inhabit the same space we do. We are also told by Paul that we are the temple of the Spirit of God. We, like Mary, are to become vessels bearing God to the wounded and forgotten. We are, then, theotokos and ambassadors for and of Christ.
I have to admit that I don't always feel this way. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, my selfishness, pride and lack of faith cloud my witness. Though I pray for transparency, I can only guess what others see. The amazing truth, though, is that we are all God's chosen people. God chooses you and me to be there for each other in God's name. Like Mary, I say, yes to God each day. Yes, yes, yes!
In a prayer crafted by Cardinal Newman, used daily by Mother Teresa and the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, the desire for transparency is clear:
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 Jeus, will be all from you, none of it will be ours; it will be you, shining on others through us. Let us preach you without preaching, not by words but by our example, be the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do. The evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you. Amen.
Silence. It is golden and of great value. In the silent night Christ is born. In silence we can be still and know God. In silence upon my bed, in the stillness of chapel, in the silence of joy that cannot speak, there is Emmanuel. In many countries, I'm told, silence means assent. If we do not dare to pray, if we fear our dross must needs be burned before Christ can be seen, if our mouth is too weak to share God's praises, let our moments of silence be a "yes". I pray that in my own way I reflect the love of Jesus, that the triumph and pain of my own experience may reflect, however distorted, a ray of God's love. Like imperfect diamonds, in need God's cutting and polishing, may our light shine! O God, shine in our hearts the brilliance of your love! Yes, shine brightly, Lord. Amen.