The Light of the World

01-08-2023From the Pastor's DeskMonsignor Ellsworth R. Walden

There is a great difference between having all we need and having all we want. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings who followed a star that led them to the Christ Child. Clearly they were men of means as we see in the gifts of gold, frankincense, myrrh and they had the means to travel a distance on camels. It was not just curiosity about a new star that led them to find the Christ Child, but the inner longing and thirst we all have for something more, and that something more is God. We can feel very comfortable and secure at times, but there is always that inner longing God placed in our hearts when He created us in His very image, and that is the longing for the light of God’s presence.

Ours is not a journey literally following a star riding camels, but the journey of life that we know - but do not like to think about sometimes - will one day end. We have heard some people who were dying say that they see a bright light. In John 8:12 Jesus says to those gathered around Him, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” There are so many things that can cause darkness in our lives. Sickness, death, wars, anger, injustice, selfishness, and sin keep us from seeing and living in the light Jesus came to bring into the world and into the lives of each one of us. The above words of Jesus proclaiming to be the light of the world are the fulfillment of these words from Isaiah 9:2: “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, God Himself, into our world and, even more, into our lives. The presence of Jesus and His Kingdom is not some magic kingdom where everyone has everything they need and are living happily ever after. Jesus is the true light of the world we live in. Through the media and our electronic devices we are constantly bombarded with reports of injustice, disagreements, murder, war, and unrest. How do we find peace and hope in such an atmosphere? We cannot ignore evil and how it is disrupting our lives, our nation, and our world, but we do have access to the light we all need to live our lives every day with hope, love, humility, and gratitude. Jesus did not enter into a perfect world 2,000 years ago at His birth, but He certainly was a person of hope, love, humility, and gratitude. He is the light for each of us. How good it is to look at ourselves and bask in His light. This light is not an escape from reality but a light that illumines the path to the fullness of life in this world and eternal life when we die.

One of the very practical and real ways the light Jesus will burn ever more brightly is through the parish mission we will have on the evenings Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, February 26, 27, and 28, 2023 right here in our church from 7:00-9:00 PM. I along with a group of more than 20 people have been working with a Mission Team from Franciscan University in Steubenville Ohio to plan for these days. Not only will we have the opportunity to be enriched by their team on three evenings, they will also show and invite us to a powerful way to share our journey of faith for the year ahead with one another. I am not being a pessimist but it is so sad to see our nation running and drifting away from God in our government and in our dealings with one another as Americans. We have the ultimate gift, the gift of faith that illumines our journey of life and enables us to live each day with hope, joy, gratitude, and love. The only person we can really control is ourselves. This is not a dreaded and fearful responsibility, but the blessing of life itself that fulfills who we truly are as men and women created in the very image and likeness of God. Only through, with and in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can we become all we truly of capable of being, knowing one day we will live in the fullness of light in Their presence in heaven.

The Magi are called the Wise Men. I am hopeful and confident that the Wisdom of God’s presence through our upcoming retreat, our daily prayers, and weekly Masses will be the light we all seek, thirst, hunger for in our lives as individuals and as the human race.

I offer Psalm 42 for your reflection. I invite you to read and pray it slowly and thoughtfully. May the light of this beautiful Psalm fill you with joy.

Like the deer that yearns for running streams,
so my soul is yearning for you, my God.

My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life;
when can I enter and see the face of God?

My tears have become my bread, by night, by day,
as I hear it said all the day long: Where is your God?

These things will I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I would lead the rejoicing crowd into the house of God, amid cries of gladness and thanksgiving, the throng wild with joy.

Why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me?Hope in God; I will praise him still, my savior and my God.

My soul is cast down within me as I think of you,
from the country of Jordan and Mount Hermon, from the Hill of Mizar.

Deep is calling on deep, in the roar of waters;
your torrents and all your waves swept over me.

By day the Lord will send his loving kindness;
by night I will sing to him, praise the God of my life.

I will say to God, my rock: Why have you forgotten me?

With cries that pierce me to the heart, my enemies revile me, saying to me all day long: Where is your God?

Why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, my savior and my God.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.

Psalm Prayer: Father in heaven, when your strength takes possession of us we no longer say: Why are you cast down, my soul? So now that the surging waves of your indignation have passed over us, let us feel the healing calm of your forgiveness. Inspire us to yearn for you always, like the deer for running streams, until you satisfy every longing in heaven.