By Father John Bayer
Special to The Texas Catholic
In the first installment of “A Word to Enkindle,” my confrere Father Thomas offered a reflection on the first part of the title: A Word. He noted that Christian faith is distinguished by the confidence that in the beginning was the Word (John 1:1); that is to say, our attitude and actions as Christians are to be shaped by the conviction that at the foundation of all that exists stands the creative, loving and intelligent thought of God. There is a Logos (Word) that holds all things in being, drawing all times and spaces towards their final consummation in the revelation of “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
In this second installment, I propose to reflect on the second part of the title: to Enkindle. For the plan and purpose of God – the Logos through whom he creates and redeems all things (John 1:3) – is not something to which we could be indifferent. We are rational spirits who live for meaning; it is our energy, our light. Meaning is the “flame” that motivates the human spirit; without it, we quickly become listless and depressed. Most of us would probably admit that the seeming senselessness of suffering and the “smallness” of our lives can threaten our peace. And what happens to our spirits when a question like “What is this all for” no longer finds an answer? The inertia of a life without meaning can be very dangerous.
We need a Logos. We need a Logos to fill us with energy and light. We need a Logos that “reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other and orders all things well” (Wisdom 8:1); we need a Logos that speaks to us, granting to each one of us a place within a single, all-encompassing and beautiful cosmos. This Logos will enlighten and inspire; it will give meaning to every moment, even moments of suffering; and it will show to each and every human being – no matter how small or dependent – that he or she has a vital gift to give in the great Logos of the one Creator and Father of all.
As Christians we believe we have such a Logos. For the Word (Logos) that was made flesh is the Word “in whom all things were created” (Colossians 1:15); and this incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, is the “true light that enlightens every human being” (John 1:9). The Logos we have received has the power to dispel our listlessness and inertia and to defeat their causes – sin, suffering and death – forever. In their place he gives energy and light: he gives fire. The disciples who encountered the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, for example, were set aflame by the Logos they received through a deeper understanding of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The revelation of the Logos of God enkindled their hearts: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). Jesus himself once said to his disciples, “I came to cast fire upon the earth!” (Luke 12:49). He is the spark sent to set aflame a world of ready kindling, come to release all our best energies and affections. He is our true motivation since he alone can give a true meaning to all that takes place in our lives.
So in this column let us look to this Logos! For we will find in his life, death and resurrection the meaning that enkindles our hearts, giving us the energy and light we need to live. In him we will glimpse the great plan of God that ties all moments and lives together into a single, coherent and beautiful manifestation of the glory of the Triune God and the blessed destiny that awaits all those who love him (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:9).
Father John Bayer, O.Cist., is a theologian and monk at the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas in Irving. His column will appear occasionally in The Texas Catholic.