A Catholic and Protestant Conversation Retreat Reflection
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are generous*, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are stingy*, your body also is full of darkness.”
– Jesus, Luke 11.34
It is challenging trying to find a place to start when reflecting on the retreat Fr Dan Riley OFM and I led together at San Damiano this past weekend. People (friends and strangers) gathered together for so many different reasons, from many different backgrounds, traditions, and experiences.
I had the privilege of sitting with a Hindu woman who grew up in Catholic schools, a man whose wife made made him attend (he ended up loving and appreciating it very much), a retired woman who is busier than ever with international works against poverty, a man in the process of coming out of the closet to friends and family, a junior high school teacher who’s just recently gone through a huge transformation with her personal health, a gorgeous gymnastics coach from the Pacific Northwest (whom I happen to be married to), a pastor and father of five children, a friend of mine since high school, and many others; not to mention sitting with my good, close friend Brother Dan who has served as a Franciscan Priest for nearly 50 years and co-founded a wonderful Franciscan Retreat Center in New York called Mt. Irenaeus. It was wildly eye-opening and life-expanding!
Yet, we spent very little time focusing on our differences. Instead, it was like there was “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), “neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all,” (Colossians 3:10). It was Church!
Sitting with individuals who are remarkably different than I and focusing on our similarities is a like breathing brand new, fresh air and seeing with clearer eyes. And we all share a very notable similarity: the dignity of being made in God’s own image. How that similarity is expressed and experienced varies infinitely (a sure reflection of God’s own infinity), although we all seek to love and be loved. That there should tell us enough about God.
In the quoted verse at the beginning of this post, Jesus says, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are generous*, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are stingy*, your body also is full of darkness.” What I read Jesus saying here is that what you see says more about you than it does about the thing you’re seeing.
Do you see light or do you see darkness? What do you see when you look at others, especially others you can’t relate to? Are you generous with seeing light? Then you are full of Light. Are you stingy and only see their lives as darkness? Then you are full of darkness. Some folks have a hard time (or even refuse) seeing light in others. I can’t imagine Jesus dying on the cross, saying, “Forgive them for they know not what they do,” without seeing Light in the midst of their dark actions. This is His invitation to us.
See the Eternal Light of Christ in all and through all and you discover that Light pervading who you are. See the Eternal Light of Christ in who you are and you discover Light pervading in all and through all.
Christ is all and is in all.
* – Most translations say “healthy” rather than “generous” and “unhealthy” rather than “stingy,” but the original greek verbiage denoted generosity in a way that our translators have stumbled over translating.