Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Light of the World

Presentation of the Lord Year A:
         Today The Lord is brought into the temple. We might have a tendency to think this a bit strange. After all Jesus Christ is the son of God. God dwells in the temple. So bringing Jesus into the temple seems a bit redundant. But, notice how he is presented. He is presented in accordance with all the laws and guidelines of the Old Testament. In other words he is presented not because of his divinity, but because of his humanity. And what an amazing presentation.
         As our second reading says today he became like us in every way. Jesus is fully human. So when he is presented to God he is Gods own son, but he is one of us. Now when God looks on humanity he sees the face of his son.
This week I received an urgent call that someone was near death down at the nursing home. I can't tell you how much I'm honored to be a priest in those moments. To be with a person as they prepare to meet Christ and to be with the family. But, I was thinking about the prayers we say during that right. At one moment we pray: "May The Lord look upon our sister and see in her the face of his own suffering son" let us pray to The Lord. I find that a beautiful reflection on the incarnation. When God looks at us he can't help but see Jesus. Through our common humanity we are united to Jesus Christ.  So when Christ is presented in the temple today, we are all presented to God with him.
But, we all know that the Lord is never outdone in generosity.  We present Jesus to him, and God gives him back to us as a light to the nations.  At the beginning of this mass we all lit candles.  This candle reminds us of the first candle most of us received, our baptismal candle.  On the day of our baptism we were given a light, or our parents and godparents received this light for us.  The prayer is quite beautiful that goes along with it: this light has been entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly, you have been enlightened by Christ, walk always a child of the light.  This light is a powerful symbol because it represents Christ who is our guide in life.
The summer after Hurricane Katrina I went on a mission trip to New Orleans.  On our way we stopped at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.  As the name implies it is a huge cave.  One part of the tour included letting us experience what total darkness felt like.  At one point deep in the cave they turned out all the lights and there was absolutely no light what so ever.  Now I don’t normally consider myself afraid of the dark, but I have never been in such a dark place in my life.  It was almost like the darkness was alive and pressing in on me from every side.  The strangest part was blinking, because there was absolutely no change.  Then, for some reason, someone took out their cell phone.  And the little light from the screen seemed like the brightest light I had ever seen.  No matter how dark it might seem, even a faint light can seem tremendously bright.

This is the role Christ wants to have in our life.  To be a light.  His light might seem brighter at times, fainter at other times.  But, the darkness can never overcome his light.  I don’t mind sharing that this has been a particularly dark week for many of us.  The diocese announced that one of our priests has been suspended because of credible allegations of child abuse.  Another priest died recently.  A member of our parish staff had a stroke on Tuesday, then another member of our parish staff is grieving the loss of her father, then today we are all grieving the loss of Joe Becker another member of our parish staff.  There is another family in the parish that many of you know who is dealing with a tremendously scary medical condition.  Seems like an awful lot of darkness.  But, the darkness never wins.  Christ came to shine a light in the darkness.  He came to lead us.  He came to strengthen us.  He came to unite us to the Father, so that when the Father looks at us, he sees his beloved sons and daughters.  So my friends during dark and difficult times, we turn to Christ, the light of the world.

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