Commentary on the Gospel of
“What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The tiny votive candle flames around the tabernacle in our dark church after midnight Mass and the brilliant sunrise on my way in for Christmas morning Mass strengthened those words when I heard them. That image of a small but fierce light has stuck with me through the readings for this first part of Ordinary Time. Today that light “breaks forth like the dawn.” It “rises in the darkness, and the gloom shall become … like midday.” It “cannot be hidden” but “gives light to all the house.” The image of light undefeated by darkness gives me hope for the Church. If we are really trying to follow the Light, to follow Christ and discern what is of God, I believe we’ll be on the right track.
“I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians. I often like the simple message best. In fact, I’m unlikely to trust someone if I feel like they’re selling me something, because I think they must be hiding something. I’m much more likely to trust them if I perceive that they’re telling it like it is; I suspect that’s what Paul was doing. He preached with the only words he had, unpolished but true. He lived his conviction of the truth of Christ.
That’s what saints do. Both the psalm and the Gospel today call us to live out our baptism, our participation in the life of Christ as his Body, in a public way: not hidden, secret, or private, but not exhibitionist, either. We are called to be foci of the Light not to draw attention to ourselves, but to point others towards Christ.
As a catechist, I attempted to answer a first-grader’s question about why saints have halos in paintings. The actual question was, “Why does St. Brigid have a pizza on her head?” (It was a rather orange halo with a gold border.) I said, “Remember how we talked about the Easter candle as the Light of Christ? The halo is a way to show in paintings that the light of Christ shone through that person’s life.” I’m sure you’ve heard the story I was thinking of for that simple image:
A parent and small child attend church together on a sunny morning. The child is fascinated by the people in the stained-glass windows. “Who are those people?” the child asks. The parent replies, “Those are the saints.” Later in religious ed, the catechist asks the child’s class, “Can anyone tell me who the saints are?” The child raises her hand and answers, “The saints are the ones the light shines through.”
The saints are the ones the Light shines through. Small, fierce, gentle, unmistakable, undefeated Light.