Called to Be Signs of Light in Our Everyday Lives

By Bishop Paul S. Loverde
Special to the Herald
(From the issue of 1/27/05)
Reproduced with Permission

We have all experienced the phenomenon of light dispelling darkness. Sometimes, our experience has been on the physical level: we lit a match in a darkened room to find a light-switch or lit a candle to give some light when the electric power failed. Oftentimes, our experience has been on an emotional or psychological level: we have been burdened or overworked to such a degree that we felt we were in total darkness; and then, things began to clear; an avenue was opened up and we said: "there's light at the end of the tunnel."

This experience of light dispelling darkness helps us to understand the dominant theme of today's liturgy. The Word of God in St. Matthew's Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus' public ministry in precisely those terms: as light dispelling darkness. "[Jesus] left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulon and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: Land of Zebulon and land of Naphtali, ... the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light; on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen."

Jesus is the Light that comes to those living in darkness. To emphasize this fact, today's Liturgy uses as the First Reading the passage from Isaiah, which St. Matthew quoted in his Gospel and which, interesting enough, is also used as one of the readings on Christmas when we celebrate the birth of God-made-man.

Jesus is the Light and His basic message proclaimed that the Kingdom of heaven -- that is, the Presence of God, the Presence of Light, is at hand. As we hear in today's Gospel account: "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand."

In today's Gospel, Jesus does two things as a follow-up to His message. First, He calls people to accept His message and come to the Light. "Repent," that is, reform your lives. This means: clear away any obstacles, so that the light can shine in, so that you can see its brilliance and feel its warmth, so that you can receive Christ's Light and live by it. Second, He calls people to continue announcing this message that the light, the Kingdom of heaven, has come. In other words, with His invitation to Peter and Andrew, James and John, Jesus begins to establish a church, which He intends to be a sign of God's Kingdom, a sign of the Light's Presence.

God's Word is alive and active and present now, among us. So, Jesus the Light is now coming to live, not in Capernaum, but in Arlington, to live in our homes, our hearts, yours and mine. He comes as the Light into our darkness and that twofold movement we noted in the Gospel happens all over again: He calls you and me to accept Him "Repent." He calls you and me to share in His mission by being active and authentic members of His church -- "Come after me and I will make you fishers of men."

Do you and I really accept Jesus as the Light dispelling our darkness? Are we honest enough to admit the darkness of our sinfulness and our need for light? Do we understand that Jesus' challenge: "Repent" is meant for us? What is the obstacle that keeps the Light from shining in, from shining through? Do you and I really accept Jesus' invitation to share His mission? "Who me?" we ask. "I'm not good enough, I'm not holy enough, I'm too ordinary." But notice who Jesus is calling in today's Gospel: four fishermen, very ordinary, earthy people -- like you and me! Do we really understand that sharing Christ's mission means trying to be signs of the Light in our ordinary everyday lives, trying to bring His Light and His Truth into daily life.

The light we bring has many forms and shapes: gentleness, compassion, firmness, honesty, forgiveness and fidelity to the Church's teachings. For example, this weekend, we are very aware of the infamous decision of the United States Supreme Court: Roe v. Wade, on Jan. 22, 1973, whereby abortion on demand was liberally permitted in our country. Since then, on the average each year, there have been 1.3 to 1.4 million abortions. Surely, we can resonate with the words of the prophet Isaiah quoted in St. Matthew's Gospel: we are "those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death." But, into this very darkness, we must bring the Light and be the Light. We must proclaim the Truth that human life is sacred and deserving of respect from its beginning at conception to its ending at natural death. Tomorrow, we shall pray and witness as we take part in the March for Life, proclaiming that life must be respected and protected at its very beginning at conception and reaffirming our efforts through prayer, penance, education, persuasion and witness that we support life and, therefore, oppose all unjust attacks on life, especially abortion, partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. In this way, we bring the Light of Christ's Truth into the darkness of our world.

Yes, our efforts to bring the Light and be the Light are often fragmented and uneven because we are human and limited, but our efforts at least can point to the Light beyond us, to the Light that is Jesus Christ. That is why we prayed moments ago: " ... direct your love that is within us that our efforts in the name of your Son may bring mankind to unity and peace" (Opening Prayer).

Yes, there is much darkness all around us: within our hearts, among families and citizens, in our nation and world. Jesus calls us to be Light and to bring the Light into that darkness  Light that signifies His Presence. With strength that comes from being one with Him in Holy Communion, let us accept His invitation and announce to others by the way we live: "The Lord is my light and my salvation" and He wants to be yours too!

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