“You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
“And who is there to harm you, if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you suffer anything for justice’s sake blessed are you. So have no fear of their fear and do not be troubled. But hallow the Lord Christ in your hearts. Be ready always with an answer to everyone who asks [for] a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:13-15
“For you were once darkness, but now [are] light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth; proving what is well pleasing to God.” Ephesians 5:8-10
These verses from scripture can inspire us in these confused, dark, and difficult times in which we live, as well as those directly ahead! St. John the Evangelist wrote in a famously moving section in the beginning of his gospel how our Lord came into the world not only as the Word made flesh but as the light that darkness has not overcome (John 1:1-4).
We are entering a time not unlike others in human history, sadly, where darkness is clearly on the ascendancy. It seems like there are more and more people tearing each other down in word and deed. World War III is lurking uncomfortably close by as the US and Russia square off over Syria, and possibly over Ukraine and Eastern Europe as well.
An increasing number of people can’t find work or enough food to support a family. And if all that weren’t enough, there is an avalanche of debt all over the world, both in the public and private sectors, that threatens to bury us all!
Christ told Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Matt 16:18) but it is undergoing a kind of Passion these days nonetheless.
Our Lord spoke of a time much like today when iniquity would increase and the love of many would grow cold (Matt 24:12); and on more than one occasion, he mentioned that those following Him would suffer persecution.
We have ISIS and other Radical Islamists slaughtering and otherwise driving Christians out of the Middle East and Iraq. Many people in the West are either falling away from Catholicism or not affiliating themselves with any faith at all! And Christianity is on the defensive, culturally and legally, both here and in Europe, thanks in part to political correctness running amok in our schools and workplaces.
(Indeed, Jesus has become the “J” word in some places where mentioning His name, in any context other than that following some accident, can bring down the wrath of school administrators, litigants, or human resources departments!)
It is easy in times like this to want to give up on our faith or on faith in general. In an era when good is considered bad and vice versa; when the rule of law is being overrun by the rule of man; when some of our cherished institutions are on the defensive and threatened with litigation; and when our children aimlessly indulge in mindless hedonism that provides short-term pleasure but long-term feelings of inadequacy, it is easy to want to throw in the towel.
But that is the last thing that we as Christians, and especially as Catholic Christians, should be doing now! Now more than ever each of us is going to need to be a light in the darkness. This is very much in keeping with Jesus’ command for us to have faith that shines like a lamp placed on a lamp stand and not under a bushel basket (Matt 5: 15-16) in any case.
This will not be easy. The degree of corruption and sin in both the public and private sectors has become so overwhelming, that sooner or later we will all experience suffering of possibly Biblical proportions, much like that found in countries like Venezuela and Syria today!
Sadly, God doesn’t need to punish humanity with fire and brimstone as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah. If He wishes to chastise us for our sins, He can just “job out” this tragic task, as he has done before, to a Nebuchadnezzar, who ravaged an impious arrogant Jerusalem in 587 BC and destroyed Solomon’s temple. Or to another Adolf Hitler, perhaps.
Will our Creator allow Kim Jong Un, or some future Osama Bin Laden, to inflict catastrophic damage on this country through a WMD or EMP attack? We must all pray and fast for that not to be the case!
Pray for the grace to endure what is coming. An important part of being a light in the darkness is letting Christ work within you. Even in, perhaps especially in, times of adversity!
This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of our faith: carrying our own crosses with some degree of level-headedness while we help others to carry theirs! More than once in the gospels Jesus stressed our need to bear with hardships, carrying our crosses, in following Him (Matt 10:38).
Being graceful will also be part of being that light in the darkness in a world that seems to be getting crazier and crazier! This might indeed be the time St. Paul spoke when as he put it “Men will be lovers of self, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, criminal, heartless, faithless, slanderers, incontinent, merciless, unkind…puffed up with pride, loving pleasure more than God” (2 Tim 3:2). Perhaps none of this should come as a surprise, considering his prophecy.
It might sound clichéd to point out that our own Easter Sundays must often be preceded by Good Fridays, just as our Lord’s was, but clearly God allows each of us some degree of suffering to purify us from sin and selfishness and to advance in holiness.
But Jesus offers us His graces during hard times to help us through them, as an often much needed emotional analgesic. And when you offer Jesus your pains united to His on the cross, you can help not only yourself but other people, loved ones, and those people you might not even know alike, on the road to heaven!
In hard times it’s all too easy and quite natural to focus on pain, much as a woman in birth pangs (John 16:21; Matt 24:8). We seem to be undergoing some kind of seismic shift in society, as mentioned earlier, and it is being felt, more or less, all over the world.
And whether or not we’re in the End Times God asks each of us to prepare for our own end times when we die. (And, after all, as the saying goes, you never know when your number is up. Never mind the threat of nuclear war or some other sort of cataclysmic event. Over 35,000 people perished in car accidents in this country last year!)
Each of us will have our own judgment day before our Lord upon passing from this life, where our next stop will be heaven, hell, or purgatory. Speaking of heaven, part of being a light in the darkness is knowing, and more importantly letting others know about how truly splendiferous Heaven is!
It’s a place of true everlasting peace, beauty, and oneness with God and with others, as described in part here. There have been numerous accounts from near-death experiences, as well as mystical visions by saints, attesting to heaven’s grandeur.
Indeed such is heaven’s overwhelming magnificence that, as St. Paul wrote “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart what things God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9).
Or as our Lord told His apostles in His Last Supper discourse: “Let not your heart be troubled…. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you (John 14: 1-2).”
This reminds us of God’s vital supernatural gift to us: the gift of hope! We have to remember, and encourage others to keep in mind, that God wishes us to love and serve Him in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in the next, as we read in the old Baltimore Catechism. That’s right. Forever!
St. Peter once compared faith in Christ’s majestic glory to a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Pet 1:19). Why not let Christ be that lamp for you, even in your suffering, so that with His guidance and grace you can be that lamp for others?
Speaking of lamps, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, in another dark time when Hitler was poised to occupy Europe in 1940, that “The soul is gone, and what we call change is only decay. How stop it except by reversing the process by which we drove God out of the world, namely by relighting the lamp of faith in the souls of men”
He remarked in another homily that spring that “We need someone to be healthy when the world is sick; someone to be a stretcher-bearer when the battlefields are freighted with wounded; someone to be calm when the house is burning; someone to be right when the world is wrong, as on Easter when they who slew the Foe lost the day.”
Suffering will indeed come and continue but always remember death and wickedness don’t get the last word. God is in charge and calling each of us to help Him bring good out of evil!
At the Easter Vigil at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, all the lights are turned out at the start of the Mass. Then, each person lights a small tapered candle whose original source is a paschal fire lit in the back of the church. Think of this as the fire of love emanating from the Sacred Heart of Jesus! The light from all those candles movingly illuminates the darkness.
You can be that light as well, even if in seemingly small ways as being calm and loving with your family and friends.
Through prayer, educating ourselves about our faith, and partaking of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance we can have God’s Sanctifying Grace working within our souls so that we might be partakers of His divine nature.
Or to put it more simply, that we can allow Him to work through us so that we can show love, patience, grace, and assistance to each other as we would have God do it.
In so doing, others can then feel comforted in hardship, and even inspired in seeing God working though us. This can help us all to fortify our faith and to be able to give that reason for our hope to others that St. Peter spoke of (1 Pet 3:15). It will be badly needed, no doubt!
Also, in the midst of all this confusion and strife, don’t harden your heart in the midst of suffering and turn away from God, feeling like He’s either not listening to your prayers or that He just doesn’t care about you any more. He does care. Think of the Psalmists who cried out to God even in desolation and dryness. Don’t try to “go it alone” without Him. You weren’t meant to!