Beginning the works of light

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Teresa Hodal (second right) and fellow ESM participants offer hot food to the homeless in New York.
Teresa Hodal (second right) and fellow ESM participants offer hot food to the homeless in New York.

By Dr Biju Jose OSH

Light is a very important metaphor in the Bible. It is among the first things created by God (Gen 1:3-4). Light is often used to describe God (1 Jn 1:5) and Jesus (Jn 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). The Qumran covenanters referred to themselves as “sons of light”.

Israel’s mission is to be a “light to the nations” (Isa 42:6). For Matthew, the symbol of light is applied specifically to God’s new people represented by the disciple (Mat 5:16). The metaphor extends to Christians, described as “children of light” (Eph 5:8; 1 Thess 5:5).

For Paul, light is the unique identity of the Christians. The Christ-event has conferred on believers a new status or identity: “sons of the light”. Being sons of the light, we Christians have to uphold always our enlightened condition.

“The admonition to wakefulness, laying aside the works of darkness and putting on the armour of light (Rom 13:12) applies to Christians of every age.”

In order to hold on to our identity, Christians have to avoid the works of darkness (Rom 13:12). But it is not enough to lay aside the works of darkness, we must also do the works of light. Our behavior must be appropriate to the day, not the night.

In short, the actions of Christians should always be in conformity with their new identity. The admonition to wakefulness, laying aside the works of darkness and putting on the armour of light (Rom 13:12) applies to Christians of every age.

Understanding the critical nature of the times, we should respond to God’s call. It is the proper time in which Christians should prove themselves to be the sons and daughters of the light and of the day.

A man and a woman hold candles at the commencement of the Easter Vigil Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday evening.

For this, we need deep convictions and courage especially in difficult moments when we are faced with hard choices or experience the temptations such as power and money. We must say ‘no’ to the many things which are contrary to gospel values.

First, we must be determined to declare the gospel of God (1 Thess 2:2) before anything else. Paul and his companions faced concerted opposition in Thessalonica, but in spite of tremendous difficulties, they had the courage and determination to preach the gospel.

This was because they had a profound sense of being commissioned by God, that they were called and set apart for preaching and witnessing to Jesus (1 Thess 2,3-4). And as Christians they had a desire to please God and not man (1 Thess 2:4-6).

“Just as in the earliest times of the Church’s existence, the society in which we live is also under the influence of the power of light or darkness. The darkness attempts to dim the splendour of the divine light.”

This was especially true in the life of the early Christians. Pleasing God might lead to great sufferings such as captivity and martyrdom, but it was a true sign that the gospel of Jesus was being preached and that the Church was witnessing to Him.

Just as in the earliest times of the Church’s existence, the society in which we live is also under the influence of the power of light or darkness. The darkness attempts to dim the splendour of the divine light. In this world there are works of darkness such as violence, injustice, corruption, racism, fanaticism, individualism, consumerism, drugs and alcohol, abortion, euthanasia, debauchery and licentiousness – to name just a few.

The time in which we live is a great challenge to all the members of the Church. This reality should awaken us, first of all, the desire to struggle against and overcome the works of darkness and to discover and develop new modes of Christian living. It is not enough to avoid the works of darkness, we must also seek to carry out the works of light and to witness to it.

A homeless person is treated by a Red A homeless person is treated by a Red Cross worker during the COVID-19 outbreak in Rome March 17, 2020. During his March 18 morning Mass, Pope Francis asked people to pray for all victims of COVID-19, including the health care workers who sacrificed their lives caring for others. (CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters) See POPE-MASS-CLOSENESS March 18, 2020.

The value of witness is irreplaceable in our evangelisation. The gospel leads to it and the Church is nourished by it. Christianity is not a religion of ideas, of pure theology, of beautiful things and commandments.

As Christians, our primary mission is to give witness to Jesus and his gospel always and everywhere. Our Christian living in a non-Christian world should give witness to the gospel values and lead others to the true light, Jesus Christ.

The violence, injustice and works of darkness that are prevalent in this world cannot be overcome except by countering them with love and goodness.

“The Bible challenges us to ask ourselves questions: Do we belong to the night or to the day? Are we asleep or awake? Who are we? Are we Christian giving witness to Jesus?”

Our vibrant faith, love and hope have far-reaching results in the lives of Christians and beyond our community. The triad of faith, love and hope serve believers as protection against the forces of darkness.

There is therefore a clear choice to be made between the warring sides. The Bible challenges us to ask ourselves questions: Do we belong to the night or to the day? Are we asleep or awake? Who are we? Are we Christian giving witness to Jesus?

Writing approximately eight centuries before Christ, Isaiah wrote “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness –on them light has shined” (Isa 9:2).

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP lights a candle from the Easter fire outside St Mary’s Cathedral at the commencement of the Easter Vigil Mass celebrating Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus. As Christians, our vocation is to be a light to the nations, a light to those who are in darkness.

We are therefore challenged to actively engage in good works. Through their good works, God’s children enlighten the world, and thereby bring praise to God. All Christians, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest Christ Jesus by the example of their lives and their witness of the Word.

This is a key element in Jesus’s understanding of mission. A light is a guide and it shows the way. Christ is the light of the world.

“Let our lights shine because that is the way in which we can bear witness to God and bring others to Jesus, the true light of the world.”

These tell us something important about Christian involvement in society because light is meant to be our distinguishing feature.

Let our lights shine because that is the way in which we can bear witness to God and bring others to Jesus, the true light of the world.

Dr Biju Jose OSH, is assistant Parish Priest in the Frenchs Forest Catholic Parish in the Broken Bay diocese