One of my hobbies is baking and cooking. Parishioners are pleasantly surprised when I tell them this. They are even more surprised to eat what I make. It is a very satisfying experience to have someone eat – and enjoy -what you make them. In the course of conversing with people about it, inevitably the subject turns to comparing recipes. People’s tastes and preferences differ, e.g. using butter as opposed to margarine or oil, for example. Still, baking in particular requires the same basic ingredients or recipe. At first a recipe appears difficult and challenging. But with practice and witht a few personal touches and adjustments, satisfaction is the result.
Is there a recipe for salvation?
A usual for those who know me I like to summariser things by acronyms or abbreviations. So the latest one in fact, is ‘ RECIPE’.
All of the following 6 ingredients make for the authentically lived Christian life.
R is for Repentance
This is first and foremost. It is the first word uttered by the Lord Jesus in the Gospel according to Mark. It means a change of direction, attitude and way of life, a renunciation form sinful habits and tendencies, a recognition that we have gone astray and, like the Prodigal Son, ‘come to our senses’ and change. This is hard and slow, especially with ingrained, resistant compulsive habits, but it is possible, and above all, necessary for our salvation.
In his letter to the Ephesians in this Sunday’s reading, for example, there are 5 types of behaviour that are completely incompatible with the Christian life. They have to do with the area of anger – ‘no more bitterness; shouting (raised voices); no more name-calling or insults; bad temper, or anger – every kind of malice must be removed from you.’ (Eph 5:31). Instead our lives must be marked by generosity, sympathy, and ready forgiveness. (5:32)
E is for Eucharist
To receive the Eucharist worthily we must ‘leave our sacrifice at the altar, and go and be reconciled with [our] brother first. That is why reconciliation must precede the second ingredient. Then we can offer a sacrifice pleasing to God. That is why we have the sign of peace at Mass before receiving the Lord in Holy Communion.’
The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’, the Church tells us.
It has been the theme of these Sundays at Mass in John chapter 6. We read this Sunday: ‘I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ (John 6:51)
C is for Charity
As the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin reminded us – ‘communion with Christ, communion with one another.’ The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It pre-supposes unity of mind and heart. We must build up unity. It is the sacrament of Christ’s love. A priest I knew once said that he dismissed the congregation at the Mass with the words ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord and to love and serve each other.’ The Mass must be lived out in the same sacrificial and self-abnegating love of Christ for us on the cross. We are called to be charitable in thought, word and deed, beginning at home and the workplace, and then, extending to others in the community, through charitable donations as well as participation in works of service.
I is for Intercession –
This is also an apt reminder that we belong – inextricably - to others, and they to us, in the Body of Christ, in the communion we call the Church. In prayer we are linked by a bond of love and this acts as a consolation as well as a strength – a mutual bond that strengthens our resolve and confidence that we pray for and are prayed (and therefore cared) for. Intercession pushes me beyond my own cares and worries to a selfless commitment to persevere even when - maybe especially when - prayer becomes dry and difficult. There are others less well off materially and spiritually - lacking these resources and strength in times of trial and temptation. My prayers can help them.
P is for Penance
This is to be done in moderation and yet it is God’s will. Think of the children of Fatima asked by Our Lady – ‘are you willing to offer up all the sacrifices God may send you’? When they replied in the affirmative, Our Lady instructed them: ‘You will have much to suffer but the grace of God will be your comfort.’ St Paul reminds us not to give up when trials come. Penance begins with the proper lived out commitment and not shirking from the sacrifices my daily duty requires. Frank Duff, in ‘Can we be saints’ went so far as to say that these daily tasks must be met even when religious devotions beckon. He said it in these or similar words: ‘Stay at home and do the dishes rather than be running off to Benediction.’ Penance comes in many forms in outing up with others, forgiving them, being silent when we would rather have the last word, and so on. It can even be the weather and the traffic going against us. ‘Make everything you can a sacrifice’, the angel at Fatima advised the children regarding its efficacy.
E is for Evangelisation
This begins with the example we set in speech and behaviour. We must never underestimate the power of good example. People are always watching us believers for the level of consistency in what we profess in belief and how we act out that belief – in conversation – i.e. our verbal treatment of others as well as our physical treatment of them.
Then we are called to evangelise – and I recommend the Legion of Mary as the chief ready means by which we can enter into the Lord’s mission to ‘spread the Good news of salvation to every creature’.
We received a call to mission at baptism. The Church is by its very nature, missionary (Vatican II). That means that every member must have a universal global understanding of the Church’s mission, and continue to ‘think globally, act locally’,
This is my proposed recipe!
While there are basic ingredients for bread – and without any one of them the bread made for example, is not satisfying tasty or nutritious, there is more to a successful outcome. There are certain external factors the like shape and depth of container, the type of oven you prefer and the length of time for baking etc. but without the proper ingredients there will be no chance of a successful outcome.
Each of us, likewise, has the recipe but each of us is a different vessel within which to live out the Christian recipe. The fire of the Holy Spirit comes down upon us and gives us life and causes our spiritual lives to grow. ‘The Holy Spirit comes to us in our weakness when we do not know how to pray as we ought’. And the fire that is the love of Christ, urges us on.