Sunday, January 19, 2014

This Little Light of Mine

This Little Light of Mine

“I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)

The theme of baptism continues in this week’s readings as John the Baptist talks about a baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The first reading reminds us that like Jesus we too are called to be a light to the nations.  Last week, we talked about the white vestment imposed on us at baptism that reminds us of the purity we receive through Christ, but the last verse of the first reading recalls what we receive right after the white vestment: our baptismal candle which is the light of Christ.  This light is entrusted to our parents and godparents so that the “flame of faith” may be kept alive in our hearts.  It is also given to us in baptism because we have been enlightened by Christ and are to always walk as children of the light.  That candle is supposed to guide us through this life and into eternity.  It is a sacred sign that should be carefully kept by parents and shown to children as they grow up as a reminder of what is signifies (my mother has always carefully guarded mine).  At the Easter Vigil, we are reminded of this when we light our candles from the Paschal Candle.  Like Christ our Light, we too are called to be a light to the nations that reaches the end of the earth.

Yesterday morning, I was reading an article about the rapid growth of the Catholic Church in China.  Last Easter, 180 Catechumens were baptized in just one church in Beijing.  Hundred were baptized in multiple parishes that prompted a shortage in godparents.  There is so much mystery that surrounds that nation and so much history of actions taken against Catholics yet remarkably people are still being drawn to the light of the Church. What really struck me was the rapid growth of priestly vocations.  I read that the average age of a priest in China is 35!  All these good people that have been baptized do so while being watched and facing possible persecution, yet they follow the light of Christ anyways.  What great witness our Chinese brothers and sisters must be giving to draw so many of their countrymen to the Church.

We also must draw people to the Church in our own country.  We must let the light that was given to us in baptism shine because so much darkness surrounds.  As Catholics, we must be that shining light that illuminates the darkness of sin.  This coming Wednesday is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade and we somberly remember 55 million innocent children who have been killed in their mother’s wombs.  We must continue to shed light on the growing infanticide that exists here.  I love my country but we cannot claim to be “the greatest country in the world” if we continue to kill our children.  We live in a “throwaway culture” and unfortunately this applies to our nations’ children as well.  Last Monday, Pope Francis spoke of this darkness:  “Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as “unnecessary”. For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day... (Speech to Diplomatic Corp 1/13/14).”  These comments were met with great fanfare in this country for all the wrong reasons because to some they were the first comments Pope Francis had made about abortion.  They weren’t.  Reuters wrote this ridiculously misinformed headline:  “Pope, in nod to conservatives, calls abortion `horrific.’”  The Pope had done it before in September in a speech to physicians: “Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world's rejection (Pope Francis, September 2013).”  This headline from Reuter about the “nod to conservatives” prompted a great priest who teaches in the seminary to post this heroic response:

Beginning next week, I will be teaching a class in Moral Theology for seminarians. It is my hope to contribute in some small way to dispelling in the minds of the church's future ministers, a poisonous dichotomy that society and the media too often insist on injecting into the minds of people, especially poorly-informed Catholics. It is the height of ignorance, even stupidity, or a plain lack of understanding and information, to equate being pro-life with "conservatism" and being an advocate of social justice with "liberalism". The church's social doctrine is a "seamless garment"; it is a "consistent ethic of life" that values life as sacred, in all its stages, from the moment of conception to natural death, and every single stage in between. One is not conservative for opposing abortion, nor is one liberal for advocating on behalf of the poor and needy. It is time to end this nonsense. A Catholic is a Catholic; he is neither simply conservative nor liberal, but he is also both. He defends the life and the rights of the unborn, the elderly, the sick and dying, the poor, hungry and needy, the homeless, the immigrant, the suffering, the lonely, the dispossessed - the "least of our brothers and sisters". Simple is not simplistic. The former is the way of Christ, it is the way of love for all God's creatures, especially the poor, weak, and those unable to defend themselves. The latter is the way of the world; it insists on reducing complex realities (including man) into easy-to-manage-and-manipulate slogans.  –Father Ferdinand Santos (Professor of Philosophy at St. John Vianney College Seminary)

As bearers of Christ’s inextinguishable light, we must illuminate those around us… with great humility and love, of course.  Because we are called to be the light of the world, we must speak up for those who society confines to the darkness: the poor, the immigrant, the elderly, the dying, the addict, and the unborn child.  Our world desperately needs the light that we received at baptism.  As Catholics, we must carry within us a sense of urgency to share that light.  As St. Paul reminded us in the second reading, we are a people called to be holy.  It is time we started acting as such and spreading some of that light and some of that holiness to a dark world desperately thirsting for the light of Christ.  I am convinced that if the world truly sees the beauty of the Church, of her people, then more will be attracted to the splendor of this light.  It’s up to you to let that light shine.

Parting thought:  This afternoon I went to my parent’s house after my last Mass and the first thing I did was go straight to my mother’s linen closet where she keeps a box that contains my baptismal candle.  Because of the candle’s length and 38 years of wear, it is broken into three pieces but the wick is still in tack and joins all three pieces together.  Even a broken candle can produce a splendorous light.