HOMILY

‘The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light. On those who dwelt in the land and shadow of death a light dawned.’ This is how Matthew saw the coming of Christ and the impact of his mission. He goes on to say that Christ went around urging people to repent, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and curing all kinds of diseases and sicknesses. Christ’s work goes on ‘wherever even one true follower of his is found. And there is as much need of it as ever, for there are still many who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. Mother Teresa relates the following incident which happened in Melbourne, Australia.

‘I visited an old man whom nobody seemed to know existed. I saw the room in which he lived and which was home for him. It was in a terrible state of untidiness and neglect. Filth and dirt lay all over the floor. Dust covered the dilapidated furniture. Cobwebs hung from the walls and Ceiling. There was no light in the room. The man was living in almost perpetual darkness as he hardly ever pulled back the curtains.

‘The state of the room was symptomatic of the man’s physical, mental, and spiritual condition. He was living in gloom, hopelessness, and despair. What could I do for him? He obviously hadn’t a friend in the world. I started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, saying: “Leave it alone. It’s all right as it is.”

‘But I persisted and in the end he let me go ahead with it. As I cleaned and tidied, under the layers of rags and rubbish I made a surprising discovery. I found an oil lamp. Though it too was covered with layers of dust and grime, I could see that it was a very beautiful lamp. I dusted and polished it with an old rag till it shone. The man watched me with curious eyes but said nothing. Then I asked him, “How come you never light the lamp?”

“Why should I light it?” he replied. “I do not need it for myself. I have become used to living in the darkness. And no one ever comes to see me.”

“Will you promise me to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?”

“Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice I’ll light the lamp.”

One of Mother Teresa’s nuns began to visit the man. It was the beginning of a new life for the poor man – a life brightened up not only by the light of that oil lamp, but especially by the light of hope and love which had been lit in his dark heart. And all this happened because someone had taken an interest in him.

Some time passed and his recovery progressed. Then one day he said to the nun who all this time had been coming to visit him, ‘Sister, I’m okay now. From now on I’ll be able to manage on my own. But do me a favour. Tell that first sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.

The light she lit in my life is still burning. What a lovely expression. With the start of Christ’s mission 3 light shone, not just for one individual, but for a whole people, in fact for the whole world. However, in order to appreciate a light, one must be conscious of one’s darkness, and desire to escape from it. In other words, one must realise one’s need to change, and actually want to change. But what if all is well with a person, if he is content? The Gospel has nothing to say to people for whom all goes well. Before a man seeks redemption and the faith that redeems, things must go ill for him. He must have experienced the darkness of sorrow, disappointment, bitterness, and despair. Then he is perhaps ready to receive the light of salvation.

I’m sure we’re all conscious of our need to change. Few of us would need to change as radically as the man in the story. Still, each of us has areas of darkness in our lives. Darkness can stand for many things: fear, illness, pain, sin, error, loneliness, despair, oppression, and so on. It touches the lives of us all. Hence our need of the light of Christ.

Though the light comes as a friend, to an extent it is also an intruder. It disturbs us. It shows up what is wrong and demands that we do something about it. In the story it showed the man the squalor in which he was living. But without outside help he would never have had the courage to tackle it. If our darkness is really deep we too may need to seek outside help in order to face it.

As followers of Christ we are also called to be bearers of his light. Christ’s light has come into the world. It is up to us his followers to make sure that the light of his love and compassion shines in the darkness and gloom of the modern world. There should be no scarcity of ways in which we can do this. We all can let a little light into some dark situation involving other people if only we care enough. It is easy to sit around cursing the darkness, and heaven knows there is no shortage of it. But that is not good enough for a Christian. A Christian is called to let in some light, even a little.

But unless our own light is lighting, we will be incapable of enlightening others. ‘Never recommend anything unless you can show a little sample.’ (Thoreau). ‘It is love that brings people back to life.’ (Dostoyevsky).

PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

Let us pray that we may able to see the light of Christ, welcome it with joy into our lives, and share it with others. R. Lord, graciously hear us.

For the Church: that it may never forget its glorious task to ensure that the light of Christ shines for all to see. [Pause] Lord, hear us.

For all political leaders: that they may be untiring in their efforts to ensure that the light of peace shines for those who live in the darkness of war and strife. [Pause] Lord, hear us.

That the light of Christ may shine into our hearts, brighten our lives, and through us radiate to others. [Pause] Lord, hear us.

That the light of Christ may shine gently on all our departed friends and relatives. [Pause] Lord, hear us.

For local needs.

Let us pray:

Father, Christ your Son brought a marvellous light into our world of sadness and shadows. We are still overwhelmed by its brightness. Help us to walk in it with courage and joy. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord. ‘

COMMUNION REFLECTION

To be a source of light in the world

one doesn’t need to be either famous or rich.

All one needs is a warm heart.

A few years ago a poor unemployed couple

from Dallas, Texas, went out one morning

looking for aluminum beer tins

which they hoped to sell for recycling.

In one bin they made a very sad discovery.

They found the body of a baby.

Greatly sad ended, they led agitation

to ensure that the unknown baby

got a decent funeral.

Thanks to their efforts,

the baby went to its final resting place

in a white coffin decked with flowers.

But the whole thing cost quite a bit of money,

money they could ill afford.

The wife pawned her only valuable possession,

a diamond engagement ring,

to help pay the funeral expenses.