MONDAY HOMILY: Living as Children of the Light
Jesus is the new "Pillar of Fire" who leads humanity out of the darkness of sin and into the radiant life of grace.
SUGAR LAND, TX (Catholic Online). St. John relates a discourse given by Christ in one of the precincts of the Temple in Jerusalem (John 8:12-20). Constructed on the site of Solomon's building, but dating from the sixth century B.C., the Temple was enlarged and adorned during Christ's lifetime (Mark 13:1). The Temple proper was reserved for the ministrations of the Jewish priesthood, but was surrounded by courtyards and porticos where the Jewish faithful could gather.
One of these areas, known as the Court of the Women - where the treasury building was also located - played an important role during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. This annual celebration was first an act of thanksgiving to God in gratitude for the harvest. Secondly, it recalled the providential care that God gave to the Israelites during the Exodus. The Gospel describes how Jesus had gone to Jerusalem to take part in this observance (John 7:2,10).
Since the Court of the Women was one of the places in the Temple area that was open to all Jews, an important ritual of the Feast of Tabernacles took place there. In commemoration of the pillar of fire by which God guided the Israelites in their journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:21), the Temple priests erected several large candelabra in the area. Their flames illuminated the courtyard well into the night.
Standing in this courtyard (John 8:20) Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). If we had been on the scene, we would have immediately made the connection between the candelabra of the Feast of Tabernacles, the pillar of Fire of the Exodus, and Jesus' words.
Jesus could not be clearer or more direct. He is the true light to which all of these other lights pointed. God created the lights of the heavens to illuminate the earth (Genesis 1,2), but he sent his only-begotten Son to illuminate our minds and hearts. Jesus is the new "Pillar of Fire" who leads humanity out of the darkness of sin and into the radiant life of grace.
If we're honest, we will admit that sometimes we prefer the darkness to the light. Even on the most literal level, darkness and shadow can provide a kind of comfort. They obscure our physical flaws, they hide us from unwanted company, and they allow us to escape from awkward or inconvenient circumstances.
On a deeper level, however, interior darkness can hide the true state of our soul from us, giving us the false comfort of thinking that we are better than we really are. The scriptures recognize the danger of this condition. For if we confuse darkness with light, if darkness becomes our most comfortable reality, if we enter into a "truce" with our sins, tolerating them rather than struggling against them, then we risk closing our hearts to the clarifying power of Christ's light.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23).
How do we come into contact with the light of Christ? Where is the "switch" that turns on this divine illumination? In the Rite of Baptism during the Easter Vigil, the newly initiated receive a lighted candle, and they are told, "You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as children of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts. When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom."
Baptism confers the light of Christ in the form of sanctifying grace, which is "a stable and supernatural disposition that enables the soul to live with God, to act by his love" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 81). Keeping the flame of faith "alive" means continuing to live in God's friendship, seeking reconciliation when it has been wounded or lost by sin, and allowing Christ to direct all of our thoughts and actions.
St. Paul had a deep awareness of living in the light of Christ. From the moment of his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts of the Apostles 9), and his subsequent baptism (Acts 9:18), Paul's soul was flooded with the grace of God, which illuminated and guided all of his future apostolic work. Conscious of this great gift, St. Paul would encourage his fellow Christians to remember that "you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness" (I Thessalonians 5:5).
Let us pray that we will never forget that we have been called into the light. Even when darkness touches our lives, it is not the end of the story. We always have hope and confidence that God is ever at hand to cast out the darkness of our souls and to strengthen us to live as children of the light.
Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, TX, a suburb of Houston. You may visit the parish website at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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