Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Christian Life
Volume 6 No. 352 June 3, 2016
III. Featured Articles on Christian Life

Your Light Must Shine

by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle

Gospel: Matthew 5:16

Dear brothers and sisters,

What is the meaning of life? This question is one that is frequently asked but is, most unfortunately, given far too little serious consideration. It is often asked rhetorically, neither expecting nor requiring an answer. And yet, today the Lord Jesus Christ gives us the answer to this question: "Your light must shine before others," he says, "that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:16).

Your light, he says, must shine; my light must shine. How bright, how strong, is your light; how radiant is mine?

If we are honest, we know that our light does not shine as brightly as it should; nor does it shine as brightly as it could. Our lives all too often do not echo that of the just man sung of by the Psalmist (cf. Psalm 112). For this reason we are sometimes no better than tasteless salt, good only to be "thrown out and trampled underfoot" (Matthew 5:13).

In the darkness of winter when the clouds often hang long and block the warmth of the sun, we know we long to see the sun in the sky. It's brightness brings light, warmth and joy. If our light shines brightly, it, too, brings light to the darkness of people's lives; it brings warmth to hearts grown cold; and it brings joy to those in apathy or sorrow.

We have all seen a radiant soul, someone whose light is perceived in their words, in their deeds, in their compassion. We call them the saints and for this reason the artists have often depicted them a ring of light encircling their heads. As people naturally gather around a bonfire, so, too, are they attracted to the light of the saints.

Pope Benedict XVI has said that "in seeing the darkness that today threatens their lives, youth can find in the saints the light that dissipates it: the light of Christ, hope for all men." It is Jesus who says of himself, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

In the Passion of our Lord we learn the truth of his words that a lamp is not lit and then placed under a basket (cf. Matthew 5:15). Of the birth of Jesus the prophet Isaiah foretold long ago: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined" (Isaiah 9:2). This light continues to shine "in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" because he did not let himself remain hidden (John 1:5).

When he climbed the hill of Calvary for our salvation, the lamp of Christ was "hung on the wood of the cross," from where he "sheds everlasting light on all those who dwell in the church." It is his light that "shines through the darkness for the upright" and it is his light that must shine through each of us (Psalm 112:4).

If we live according to his law of love, the Lord has promised, "Then your light shall forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed" (Isaiah 58:8). Our light will only shine forth in this way if we reflect his own light through the example of our lives, as the saints have already done.

Saint Clare of Assisi teaches us that when we pray we should "place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!" This mirror of eternity is the image the Crucified Lord. For this very reason Saint Paul says he "resolved to know nothing … except Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). It must be the same with us.

If our light is to shine brightly before others, we must spend time each day gazing into the mirror of eternity, contemplating the sufferings of the Savior and basking in the warmth of his light. If we do, we become mirrors like Moses, reflecting the light of the Lord's glory to others (cf. Exodus 34:29-35).

Let us, though, not seek to dim the light of the Lord in our lives, but let us allow it to shine brightly in all that we do. We must remember these words of Saint Jerome:

When you see people freezing outside the church
in the frigidity of unbelief,
without the warmth of faith,
impoverished and homeless,
lead them home into the church
and clothe them with the work of incorruption,
so that,
wrapped in the mantle of Christ,
they will not remain in the grave.

Through the witness of our lives, may his light continue to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death that they may know the One who is Light from Light (cf. Luke 1:79).


Lord, Let Your Face Shine on Us

by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle

"Lord, let your face shine on us" (Psalm 4:7).

With these words the Psalmist expresses the primordial longing of every human heart to see God. Can this desire be fulfilled? Is it possible for us to see God? Yes, it is possible, because he has shown himself to us.

The disciples first followed Jesus when he said to them, "Follow me," because they were seeking the face of God (Matthew 4:19). Little did they know that when they looked upon Jesus they looked upon the face of God. If we have not come here today seeking the face of God, I do not know why we have come.

The human longing to see the face of God "recognizes God as a person, a being concerned about us, who hears and sees us, speaks to us, and can love us and be angry at us – as the God who is above all and yet still has a face."[1] It is the recognition of a relationship that we long to have with him and he with us.

It is a bold request we make today with the Psalmist, asking to see the face of God, a request that even Moses was refused.

Moses said to God, "I beg you, show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18). The Lord answered his request, saying, "I will make my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim my name "The Lord"… But…you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live" (Exodus 33:19-20).

As he passed by, the Lord said, "I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen" (Exodus 33:22-23). So great is the Lord’s love for us that he shields us from the light of his face that burns whatever is not pure.

And yet, is this not precisely what we want, to pull back the veil, as it were, to see his glory, to see God as he really is, face to face? For this reason the Psalmist sings, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God" (Psalm 42:2)?

To look upon the face of God is to experience absolute and perfect happiness, for he is Goodness, Beauty and Truth. To see his face is to look upon "the Author of life" (Acts 3:11).

Every member of the Church must live his or her life as one "in love with Christ, attracted by him and determined to make [his or her] own life a continuous quest for his Holy Face."[2]

Is this not, ultimately, what Saint Peter means when he says, "Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away" (Acts 3:19)?

Saint Peter knew well the face of Christ, having lived with him for three years, and he knew well the grace of repentance.

After having thrice denied knowing him, "Jesus turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord...and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:61-62). What did he see in that face?

When Peter, at that moment, looked into the eyes of Jesus, he knew that, as Saint John says, "He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world" (I John 2:2).

In that moment, Peter must have begun to realize - if only in an impartial way - the words Jesus said only the night before: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

Is this not why we so often seek to hide from Jesus? We do not want to acknowledge our sins. We do not want to weep bitterly. Yet it was precisely this that Saint Peter found necessary to follow Jesus faithfully and receive his peace. For this reason he says to us, "Repent, and be converted!"

The Lord let his countenance – the light of his face - shine upon Peter and he knew the forgiveness of Jesus, the mercy for which the Lord would soon die to give to him (cf. Psalm 4:7). This is why the Risen Savior stood today in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you" (John 24:37). If we seek his face he will let the light of his face shine upon us, too, and he will say to us, "Peace be with you."

The disciples stood before him "startled and terrified" because – although their sins were forgiven – they knew how greatly their sins had offended God and how greatly they had failed him (Luke 24:38). Even so, they did not hide from his face, but looked upon it in love and fear, and thus, contemplating his face they knew peace.

My brothers and sisters, each of us must seek his face. King David tells us that the "generation" who seeks "the face of the God of Jacob" lives rightly (Psalm 24:6). Who is the one who seeks his face? It is "he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully" (Psalm 24:3-4). In short, the one who seeks his face keeps his commandments and "the love of God is perfected in him" (I John 2:5). We could say, "seeing happens through a manner of living that we call following after."[3]

This afternoon I was driving back to Effingham from a track meet in Robinson. I have never been very good with directions. I recognized little of my surroundings as I drove away from Robinson, so I asked my passengers, "Are we on the right road?" They assured me we were.

This is a good question, is it not? It presupposes that we know the destination. Are we, my friends, on the right road? Are we on the way that leads to the face of God, to the satisfaction of the deepest longing of every heart? Have we set ourselves firmly behind Jesus Christ?

"This is the path of Christ, the way of total love that overcomes death" that leads to the light of his face.[4]

When the Lord turns his face toward us, he puts gladness into our hearts (cf. Psalm 4:8). For this reason, the Psalmist sings, "As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling" (Psalm 4:9).

He speaks here not of the common sleep, but of the sleep of death. He knows that the Lord will answer his deepest longing, that having sought the face of God he will behold it.

The lives of the saints "assure us that if we follow this path, the way of love, with fidelity, we too, with the Psalmist, will be satisfied with God’s presence."[5] Let us, too, seek his face. Amen!


[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, On the Way to Jesus Christ, Michael J. Miller, trans. (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2004), 20.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 1 September 2006.
[3] Ratzinger, 16.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 1 September 2006.
[5] Ibid. 

Good Christian Life

by Sindhu George

What does a Christian look like? What are some of the identifying details of the redeemed?

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, reminding them that they were to live in a way that was worthy of their new life in Christ. Three characteristics of that life were humility, gentleness and patience.

In the Bible, humility, gentleness and patience are never signs of weakness. They are signs of the power of faith in God and in His strength.

Humility is not thinking little of yourself. It is not being a doormat. It is having a realistic assessment of yourself. It is realizing that we don’t bring the strength or goodness. God provides it and brings it to us. We don’t judge ourselves by what we do for God but by what God does and has done for us.

Moses is described as more humble than anyone on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3) Yet, as we read in Exodus, he led more than a million Israelites through the wilderness. He was a strong man who showed humility in his absolute dependence upon God.

Gentleness is showing tenderness and kindness when dealing with those who are weaker and more vulnerable – like a shepherd caring for his sheep - just as God is gentle with us.

Jesus was gentle, without sacrificing truth, even with those caught in obvious sin. When an adulterous woman was brought to Him, He shamed her attackers into leaving and gently said to her, “Go and sin no more.”

Patience is acting with restraint and self-control. We are to be patient in waiting for God’s answers and to be patient in our relationships with one another.

God had the patience to wait for us to turn away from sin and to turn toward Him instead of giving us what we truly deserved –spiritual death.

Humility, Gentleness and Patience

These are three healing qualities. Every day we all run into self-centeredness, impatience, harsh words and unkind actions. How would it heal our troubled hearts to meet with humility, gentleness and patience.

Humble, Gentle, Patient

Do these words define you? Do they characterize your interactions with family, friends, co-workers and strangers.

Treat every person as someone of value.
Don’t think less of yourself, think of yourself less.
Respond rather than react.
Spend more time listening than speaking.

What Really Is "The Good Life?"

by Paul Tripp

I am still confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13)

If you could paint a portrait of your version of the "good life" what would it look like? What's the golden personal dream that fills your mind when you say to yourself, "If only I had...."? What's the one thing in your life that you tell yourself would make you happy?

You see, it's very tempting to associate the good life with something physical. Perhaps it would mean living in a certain location. Maybe it would mean getting that job that you've always dreamed of. Or it could mean having the special relationship with that special person. Maybe for you it would be earning a certain amount of money. Maybe it would be looking a certain way or experiencing a certain level of physical health.

When you define the good life by these kind of physical experiences there's a second thing that happens; you tend to judge God by his willingness to deliver them to you. You unwittingly begin to evaluate God's goodness by whether or not he gives you the thing that you've set your heart on. But often God doesn't give us the things that we've set our hearts on precisely because we've set our hearts on them. Because we've set our hearts on them they're a spiritual danger to us. So, God is responding to us in a way that's good, even though it doesn't feel good at the moment. It's often in these moments of want that we're experiencing the "goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Because he loves us and because he's good, God keeps from us those things that fight for control of our hearts and therefore, fight for the place that only he's supposed to have.

Imagine a little child running to the house one afternoon and saying to his mom, "Mommy, I am hungry...I want a candy bar, a can of soda, and a bowl of ice cream." Now pretend that you respond, "I'll make you a peanut butter sandwich with some apple slices on the side." There's a good possibility that your child won't run over to his neighbor friend's house and say, "You won't believe what a good Mom I have...I asked for unhealthy treats and she responded by giving me things that were much better." Probably the more likely scenario is that the child would immediately protest to his mother, "I don't want peanut butter...I want candy...why can't I have candy?" At this moment your child doesn't think of you as the definition of parental goodness!

Being confident of the goodness of the Lord shouldn't be confused with an assumption that because God is good, he'll give me the things that I've set my heart on. In his grace, God is freeing you from the small confines of your little definition of what's good so that you can experience the huge and satisfying good that he's planned for you. Grace welcomes me to experience what is eternally right, true and good. Grace invites me to good that I could never have imagined, deserved, or earned.

It's nice to have a nice house and a comfortable life, but it's even better to have come to the place where you no longer need those things to feel good about your life. Sure God will bless me with physical things, but every good physical thing that he gives me is meant to be a sign that points me to the good that can only be found in him.

This is the bottom line. The good that God promises me isn't a situation, possession, position, or relationship. The good that he promises me is himself. What could possibly be a better gift than that!?

Source: Paul Tripp Ministries

The Comparing Game

by Gwen Smith

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised
(Proverbs 31:30).

We live in a competitive world. The pressures to be thin, beautiful, fit, smart, sexy, funny, rich, and popular trap us in a relentless vise-grip. Anyone can become gripped by a disorder or an addictive lifestyle. You could be a college student, a businesswoman, a nurse, a mom, a dance instructor, a retail clerk, or a Sunday school teacher. No one is exempt. Feelings of inadequacy and inferiority ravage hearts of Christians and non-Christians alike.

Our attempts to measure up are all-consuming traps. They focus our attention inward verses upward. When we get caught in the trap of striving to measure up, we focus on ourselves. That was never God's plan. We were designed to focus on Him. Shifting our attention from ourselves to God will change our perspective. God longs for our obsession to be Him.

"I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols"
(Isaiah 42:8).

The Dangers of Comparing

A common way we attempt to measure up is through comparison. Comparing is one of the most dangerous and destructive behaviors that we women engage in. We compare everything - our husbands, our children, our churches, and our cars. We compare our homes, our schedules, our finances, our blessings, and our burdens. There is a subtle, internal dialogue that plagues our minds and causes us to pull out our measuring sticks and hold them up to the people around us.

That's not to say that we should isolate ourselves or withdraw from awareness of others. We need to be able to relate to our friends, families, and neighbors. No question. But we shouldn't compare ourselves to them.

Comparing your life, your family, your stuff, your failures, and your accomplishments to that of someone else is dangerous. Very dangerous. It draws the focus of your heart to you instead of to God. The comparing game also brews a bitter cup of jealousy and resentment. I should know. I've tasted more than my fair share of that bitter drink.

No, we in the church are not immune to comparisons by a long stretch! How many times have you looked across the aisle and thought, "She's such a godly woman I wish I was more like her," or "I wish I could pray like her (or sing like her, or speak like her, or bake like her, or be popular like her, or be organized like her)"?

Often the things we compare are completely meaningless, fluffy things…

Do you have a girlfriend with perfect hair? How about a girlfriend with a husband who treats her as a precious jewel? Got a friend whose house is crazy-organized? Do you have a friend who works out faithfully and looks like she belongs on the cover of a fitness magazine? Got one of those?

Sure you do. So do I.

Honestly, my list of shortcomings could go on forever. I'm keenly aware that I fall short in many areas. It's easy to listen to the voices in your head that say, "You're not this, and you're not that. You don't do this well, and you can't do that." Your internal comparison dialogue is a vicious measuring stick that the enemy loves to wave in your face. Your defense in such an attack should be God's truth. You were made to be you, and are called to be uniquely you, for Him.

Yes, we should strive to live lives of excellence. And yes, we should be aware of personal areas that need improvement. But God intends that we should bloom where we are planted and thrive in our gifting's so that His church can function in a healthy, balanced way.

In the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul shows us clearly that each of us has a divine design and an important role to play in the Body of Christ.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body (1 Corinthians 12:14-20, NASB).

God has a special plan for your life. God's gifts for you are the best gifts for you to possess. He fashioned you in His image and tenderly knit you in your mother's womb. You are purposed to be a God-loving YOU.

It's time we quit chasing the interests of others and start pursuing the passions that were written on our hearts. Our role in the Body of Christ is essential. God wants us to stop trying to measure up to everybody around us and be content in Him.

Let's Pray

Dear God, please renew and transform me from the inside out! When feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and self-doubt creep into my heart, help me to see myself the way you do. I want to be held tightly by your truth.
In Jesus' Name,

Now it's Your Turn

Read Ephesians 2:1-10.

What observations can you make about the depth of God's love for you and the unique design He has for your life?

Do you accept how much you're loved by God? Does it impact how you perceive yourself? Pray about it and write in your journal if you're the journaling type. Then visit my blog to talk about it and pray through it together. If you are ready to move beyond comparing, leave a comment, "I'm done with the comparing game!"

Today's devotion is an excerpt from Gwen's book 'Broken into Beautiful'. Source: Girlfriends in God Devotional


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