Reverend R. A. Shackles
In the Epiphany season of the Church’s year, this time for the showing forth of Jesus as well as the individual Christian’s work of becoming a reflection of this Light of Christ by our lives, it is very important to consider all of the pragmatic consequences of this task. One of the most important concerns is understanding all the difficulty of this work. For in showing a reflection of Christ’s Light, we are putting ourselves before the world with a profoundly risky undertaking. Once we show ourselves to be believers, proclaiming by our actions that we believe Jesus is Lord, in today’s world is to invite ridicule and varying other forms of abuse — from a secular cultural bound and determined to put us down.
As anyone in any way on the front line of proclaiming, “I am of Christ,” you will have no lack of challenge from an increasingly faithless culture. To face this, more, to make the witness requires not so much a strong faith as a willingness to take on this evangelical task of proclamation of the Good News, to be willing to take the unfriendly thrusts of those whose determination is to not only suppress, but indeed to eliminate the Church from public discourse. So it is no wonder or surprise that large numbers of believers retreat into the quietness of “a private faith.”
But that is a counsel for defeat; one that simply encourages success for the enemies of the Church. The Gospel is a counsel to life; a call to accept the whole promise of Christ as answer to the hope of finding, entering and living in the Kingdom of God. Inspired by the love of God, gracefully given, the Church — and each individual Christian—is called to stand forth for Christ in all aspects of human existence. Love is meant to be given away, shared by all the world. Jesus came, lived, died and rose to give us all a welcome into His Kingdom.
The point of Epiphany is that as the Holy Light has now become manifested to the world, we who call ourselves “children of the Light” was not retreat into private faith. That commitment, sense of giving up becomes unsustainable apart from the Master in the world created by His Father. And now, in a time of open attack upon the Faith, this is acutely important — as is the effect to which Epiphany calls us – the courageous standing forth to defend and proclaim the faith, in a refusal to be bullied or suppressed by the secular forces of the world. To every opposition, we must refuse to submit, or give ground. Every secular enactment against us saying “you cannot” we must openly reply “we must” and proceed to share our life in fearlessly proclaiming Christ no matter what inconvenience put in our way. This is a time for more and more believers to unite in one unified commitment to announce – and live by it—“Here, Lord, are we! Now send us into and support us in the battle. ‘ This world needs such a ready Company of Witnesses.