Jesus, Light of the World
This is one light that will never go out.

By Fr. Tom Forrest, C.Ss.R

I want to tell you a story about something that happened to me a long time ago. I had to take a plane trip from Boston to New York City. I got on the plane, and everything began to progress in the usual way. We got clearance from the tower, moved away from the gate, rolled out onto the tarmac, and then stopped moving. And we sat there, and we sat there, and we sat there. Finally, I looked out the window and what I saw was absolute darkness. There wasn’t a single light on in the airport. All the lights had gone out. Then the pilot came on the speaker system and told us that not only were there no lights in the airport, there were no lights anywhere in the city of Boston, anywhere in the state of Massachusetts, or anywhere in the New England region of the United States.

It was the “Great Blackout of New England.” That whole corner of the United States, where sixty or seventy million people lived, was suddenly without light. So, I had to get off the airplane and with great care find my way back to the house where I had been staying. There were no street lights. Traffic was jammed up at every corner. No electric trains were working. There was very little security protection for the people on the streets. Elevators in skyscrapers stopped wherever they were, most of them between floors. People had to walk down from the top of the highest buildings in the world, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, even one hundred floors, to get out on the street and try to get home.


Restaurants couldn’t serve meals. Shopping malls and movie theaters went totally dark. People couldn’t get to the hospitals. Mothers about to give birth had great difficulties. Doesn’t that sound sad? But that’s not the worst. Wait till you hear how sad it gets. For thirteen or fourteen hours, that whole area of the world was without television. How sad! What were they going to do with their lives? How could life be worth living without television?


Best-selling books were written about this great blackout. They even made a comical movie telling the story. And for years and years afterward, the people of that area shared with each other their personal experiences of where they were when the lights went out. That’s how powerful an impression the darkness made on them.

People Trapped in Darkness. Now, dear people of God, there are many people in this world, perhaps countless millions, who live their whole lives in darkness. Why? Because they are living without the light that has come into the world. They are living without the light whose name is Jesus Christ.


I’m not just talking about places like Africa or China where there isn’t a strong Christian tradition. I’m also talking about the West. In Europe and the Americas, the light of Jesus Christ is fading. In Ireland, for instance, for the first time in its history, people are saying that young people aren’t coming to church. And in the United States, statistics show how relatively few come to give God Almighty even one hour of the 168 hours he gives us every week.


We had better take notice of this fact because we--let me rephrase that--because you have the job of getting the light back on. It isn’t enough to say, “Well, we have Jesus Christ in our history. We have Jesus Christ in our art, in our music, in our literature.” No, we have to get the light of Jesus Christ shining brightly again in human hearts. And we have to start with our own hearts.

Living without the Light. Being without spiritual light is far worse than being without physical light. Without the light of Christ, we have no protection. The devil loves the darkness. He’s called the “Prince of Darkness.” Without the light of Christ he is free to kill our hope and fill us with fear. Without the light of Christ, we are unable to move forward, unable to grow in holiness as God calls us to. Without the light of Christ, we are spiritually paralyzed, just as those planes on the tarmac, those cars on the streets, those trains in the city, and those elevators in the buildings were paralyzed without the light.


Without the light of Christ, our human actions have no traffic lights. We have no red light saying, “stop,” to our selfish passions, emotions, and self-interest. Even more importantly, we have no green light telling us, “go, get moving,” in accomplishing the good works that God created and destined for us. We have no red light saying, “don’t do evil,” and no green light saying, “go, produce fruit in abundance.”


Without the light of Christ, human beings are engulfed in the utter darkness of egotism and selfishness. Do you know what the selfish person wants? He wants the right to be the only selfish person on earth. He doesn’t want anybody around him to be selfish, but he thinks that being selfish is his right. What a sadness!


Another darkness is resentment. If you have any resentment in your heart, please be healed of it. It does you more harm than the person you’re resenting. It’s poison in your life. Bad memories, bad relationships--this is the darkness for so many people. Greed is another one: wanting more than you could ever use. Imelda Marcos was said to have had three thousand pairs of shoes. I calculated that if she were a centipede, she could put on a new pair of shoes every day for two months. There’s also the darkness of addictions. What a horror in our world! People are addicted to alcohol, drugs, food. What are they hiding from? They’re trying to hide from the darkness, but they only enter into it more and more deeply.

Longing for Peace. For so many people, the darkness in their hearts makes it impossible to say, “I have peace. I have enough.” What a blessing peace is! This is what evangelization is all about. St. John called Jesus the light that shines in the darkness, then he went on to say that Jesus is the light that darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5). Jesus, and only Jesus, can fill our lives with light.


Have you ever lived through a hurricane? I have several times while I was in the Caribbean. During a hurricane, it’s as if your whole world is filled with darkness and wind and rain. But when the hurricane passes, it blows away with it every cloud in the sky, and the sun comes out again. After so much fear and worry, the world is filled with light. That’s the way Christ should come into our lives, bringing us beauty, bringing us color, bringing us goodness. Well, like John the Baptist, each of us must be a witness to the true light that gives light to every man. Our job is to turn the light on in this world so that people can walk in light and never return to darkness.


Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied what would happen when the Messiah came. He said that the Messiah would shine on those who sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:79). This isn’t the death that ends our time on earth. It’s the death called sin, the death called fear. This is what you must be doing as an evangelizer. And it’s your mistake and your sin if you don’t get at it. Zechariah’s next words tell us what we have to do: We must guide people’s feet into the way of peace. That’s what we do when we bring light into someone’s life. Now, if you’re in utter darkness, you won’t see where to put your feet. You won’t know where to walk. But the light shows you the pathway, and Scripture says the path takes you to peace.


How many people in the world are hunting for, yearning for peace? All the alcoholics, all the drug addicts, all those mad, mad, shoppers who think material things will give them peace. No, the Prince of Peace gives us peace. Jesus calls himself the Light of the World, the Light of Life (John 8:12). He doesn’t give light to your streets, he puts light, color, joy, happiness, and direction into your very life.

Live as Children of the Light. How good Jesus is to us! This is how he expresses his mission: “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me to proclaim recovery of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). Who are the blind? They’re the poor people we’re talking about, the people who are spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically blind. They have no understanding of where they came from, where they are right now, or where they should be going. They are emotionally paralyzed. But Jesus said, “I have come to the world as its light to keep anyone who believes in me from remaining in the darkness” (John 12:46).


Oh, it’s so beautiful, it’s such a wonderful, kind thing to do. We give it a fancy name--evangelization--but it really means bringing sight to the blind. What an incomparable act of love and kindness to light the pathway of someone who is lost in darkness! What an act of love it is for us to proclaim with Paul, “There was a time when you were darkness, but now you are the light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).


It’s not that you have to go from darkness to light. It’s more than that. You have to go from being darkness to being light in this world. Paul goes on: “Well then, live as children of the light. Awake, O sleeper! Arise from the dead”--from the darkness of the tomb--“and the light of Christ will shine upon you” (Ephesians 5:8-14).


This is why we call the gospel good news. We can walk in the light. Without any doubt, evangelization is the supreme Christian service of teaching the spiritually blind to cry out like that man in the gospel, “Lord! That I might see!” (Mark 10:51). And so many blind will see if they just cry out those words.

Open the Eyes That Are Blind
Jesus wants us to come together so that our light shines brighter and brighter.
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The most beautiful film I have ever seen depicting evangelization is a Protestant film called The Miracle of Taxilla. Taxilla is the name of a hospital in Pakistan. It is the very best eye hospital in that country, and it’s staffed primarily by two Christian doctors: a man from England and a woman from India. These two doctors are not there to make money, but because they want to share the love of Jesus Christ.


As the film begins, a Muslim man comes walking to the hospital, guided by two friends because he can’t see a thing. When he comes into the examining room, one of the doctors shines a flashlight into his eyes, and there is no reaction. The light doesn’t penetrate at all. Then they operate on him, and we see him leaving the hospital with bandages covering both eyes, accompanied once more by his two friends. A day or two later, the man comes back to have his bandages removed. After taking off the bandages, the doctor waves his hands in front of the man’s eyes. And we see a beautiful smile come on this old man’s face. He lifts up his eyes, and tears begin rolling down his face. He can see!

In this film, the doctor and the staff tell why they are doing this work. Out of love for Jesus, they want to repeat the kindness of Christ who walked from town and village giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. And as you see a man who is blind begin to see, not only do you see tears running down his cheeks, but you put your hand to your face and find the same happening to you. The film ends with this man leaving the hospital, but now he doesn’t need his two friends to help him. As he walks away, he turns back and sees the two doctors, and he waves, and he goes home.

We Are Carriers of the Light! What a kind thing to do--to give sight to the blind! But this is your job. Your job is to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ. This world of darkness seems to use more lights than it could ever need: the lights of Broadway and Piccadilly Circus, the lights shining out of television sets and shining down on movie screens, the lights hanging over the streets of perversion in our major cities. But none of it is real.


We are carriers of the real light, and when we give sight to the spiritually blind, what can they see? Sometimes, for the very first time in their lives, they can see the greatness of the love of God for them just as that Muslim man did. They can see, perhaps for the first time in their lives, something that God has always seen in them: goodness, because God is bringing that goodness back into the light, back to life. They can see their value as beloved sons and daughters of God. They can see the goodness of others when before they were looking at everyone in the world and thinking that all of them were only evil and bad. They can see the truth that can set them free. And someday, because you brought them into the light, they will see the face of God.


“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). That’s giving sight to the blind. And if you do that, if you make an effort to do it, if you give up a little bit of time, you will see results. Here’s Jesus’ call to Paul: “I have made you a light to the nations, a means of salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 26:17-18). And he tells each of us that we must speak the words of Christ now. We must be the light of the world.

Turn On the Power. Now we all know how big a job it is to get the power back on in this world of darkness. It’s a big job because the devil seems to have all the power. Even some Christians believe he really does have all the power. As soon as they see a problem, they give up. They say, “What can we do? After all, we’re only human.” But in Jesus Christ, we humans can be divinized; we can be made like God.


Now my little light, your little light, all by itself could never do this job. That’s why the Holy Spirit wants us to work together. Every one of you is an utterly distinct, magnificently unique work of the creative mind of God. Each of you has your own particular light. But if we want the world to see, we have to bring our lights together and become a people of the light, shining with the wonder and beauty of Jesus Christ. We have to be lamps, burning with the light of Christ.


What do you do with a lamp? Well, Jesus tells us what not to do with it, even though too many of us do it anyway. We shove it under the table and hide it. No, Jesus tells us to place it on the tabletop, “so that those entering the room can see” (Luke 11:33). It’s up to you. And if you don’t do it, there’s someone out there who won’t see because you didn’t let your light shine. In order that the whole world can come to see, our lamps must come together, resplendent, as Scripture says, like a city on the mountaintop, shining like a beacon light at sea, leading people to the safe harbor, Jesus Christ.


Now, throughout Scripture, God calls us to be nothing less than light to the world. Each one of these is a phrase from Scripture: angels of the light, messengers of the light, children of the light. Do you see the emphasis? We’re called to be people of the light, disciples of the light, until we all one day come together. I’ll see you there, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where “there will be no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God gave it light and the light was the Lamb and the nations shall walk by that light” (Revelation 21:23).


“What Can I Do?”
Five Ways to Share the Gospel
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1) Pray.
Devote a part of your regular prayer time to interceding for one or two people whom you think God wants to touch. Be persistent, and trust that the Lord hears you. Also, develop the habit of listening to the Spirit and getting used to his promptings.

2) Forgive.
Nothing robs us of our joy and dims the light of Christ in us as much as resentments and lack of forgiveness. It may take time, and we may need to keep going to Jesus for healing and guidance, but it is worth it. Perhaps you can begin by just telling him that you’re ready to be made willing to forgive and bless.

3) Help.
Wherever possible, be willing to go out of your way to help people in need. From the local homeless shelter to the neighbor who is sick and would like a kindly visit, there are so many opportunities to share the light and love of Christ without saying a single word. Over time, your witness of loving service will open doors.

4) Smile.
Check yourself in the course of the day: “Am I at peace right now? Do I know that the Father has my life in his hands? Can I give over to the Lord any anxiety or frustration?” The more you demonstrate the freedom and peace of Christ, the more your witness will touch others.

5) Share.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your faith when the opportunity arises. Talk from your personal experience of how God has touched you, protected you or your family, or given you grace in a time of difficulty. Talk about how your experience of salvation in Christ has freed you from sin and given you confidence in the love God has for you.


Let Your Light Shine!
Do you believe that you can be a living miracle in your neighborhood?.
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This is the vision God gives us--to work together to be a light in this world of darkness. This is where we’re supposed to be going, and we’re supposed to be able to see the way because each of us is helping to illuminate the way for one another. This vision is not like that other vision called television, where you sit passively observing silliness and worse, and going out and doing nothing. No, this vision is an invitation. It is an opportunity, a calling from God to go out and do something great for God, to do something great with God and with each other for the salvation of the whole world.


We must understand that before everything else, our own lamps must be lit with the unmistakable glow of the holiness of Jesus Christ. That’s the light that leads the way. When people meet us, they have to be meeting Christ in all of his love, in all of his goodness, in all of his holiness. They must be seeing the Holy One of God in us. That’s what we call witnessing. It’s the highest form of witnessing, to glow in this world with the goodness and holiness of Christ. We cannot waste time hiding the light under a table, putting it under a bushel basket with what is an absolutely false humility. We must let that light shine, and we must cry out with Mary, “God has done great things in me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49).

Be a Saint. If you have ever had the privilege of being with Mother Teresa, before you left her, you would have naturally said, “Mother, please pray for me.” And before she left you, she would have said to you, “Please pray for me.” But then she would have added something else: “Pray that I do not damage the work of God.” I remember being with her at the first worldwide retreat for priests. A sister from Ireland was asked to accompany her and take care of her, but she couldn’t do much for her. Mother Teresa would-n’t even take a cup of tea, she lived so simply. But this sister had the chance to talk with this well-known, recognized saint. So she asked, “Mother, when they introduce you and they call you a living saint, how do you feel?” Mother Teresa replied, “That’s what we’re all supposed to be. And when they say it, I just let it go in one ear and out the other.”


There’s another story about Cardinal Suenens from Brussels. Once, he was in Rome attending the canonization of a saint from Belgium. After the Mass, a reporter asked him, “What is a saint?” And Cardinal Suenens said, “A saint is a normal Christian. Our trouble is we’re all too abnormal.”

Now I loved Mother Teresa. I counted her a real friend. But I have one complaint about her. Do you want to hear what it is? I have only one complaint: It’s not enough. Every single one of you should be doing in this world exactly what she did, shining with the light of Christ, letting the light of his holiness, his goodness, love, his dependence upon the Heavenly Father light the path for others. Be a people of light. Bring your light together, and shine together. During this new millennium of grace, lift up an absolute storm of prayer for the darkness to be swept away and for the light to shine.

The Battle of Prayer. I want to tell you a story from Scripture that says how you should pray. This is a story about the people of Judah being called together to prayer in a time of battle. Let me give it to you in a paraphrase from 2 Chronicles 20.
“All of Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, with their wives, and their children. All Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord in worship. And the Levites stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. Jehoshaphat, the king, appointed some to sing to the Lord, and some to give praise. They sang and they thanked God for his mercy and enduring love. They came to Jerusalem, to the house of the Lord with harp and lyre and trumpet, and they won the battle.”


We can win the battle, but it will start with prayer. We have to be seen as a people of prayer. We have to be known as a people of praise when we go out to do battle. We have to learn to work together in a world where even husbands and wives can’t stay together. Children and parents can’t stay together. But we as a people of God, as the church of Christ, must shine in our togetherness.

Be a Miracle. Now if we were in New Orleans, and we all walked outside and walked across the Mississippi River, right on top of the water, that would be impressive. But do you know what that gets? Not much more than chicken feed. If we did that, we’d only be working a miracle. That’s not enough for Jesus. He says be a miracle. Be a miracle of oneness, of unity. Be the one body of Christ. Be the local church. Help each other so that the world can believe, so that the world can see that the Father sent me.


In order that the world might see, be united as one body. And then let your light shine in the world. When was the last time you wrote an article for the newspaper? Write one. Send something in to a magazine. Talk about Jesus on the street corners. You don’t have to have a guitar, but if you’re out there, smile. And if somebody says, “You look different because you’re smiling,” be ready to answer.
Scripture says, “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Do you know what hope means? It means I’m going to have a great tomorrow. If I think I’m going to have a rotten tomorrow, that’s despair. But we can have hope. In your universities, in your factories, in your office buildings, in your ball parks, in every big city and every tiny town of the world, bring light, bring joy, bring happiness. But before anything else, let the light of Jesus Christ’s holiness shine in you.


Holiness and Evangelization.
In his great document The Mission of the Redeemer, the Holy Father says that there is an intimate connection between our call to holiness and our call to evangelize. When we bring our light into the mission field, we have to make sure it’s shining with the holiness of Jesus. What does that mean? It means that if you skip the mission to evangelize, you’re no saint, and it means that if you’re no saint, you won’t do a great job at the mission. You have to do both.


C
an we let the Holy Spirit bring our lights together? He’s good at that. His light can shine within us, and as we come together, this combined light is capable of illuminating the whole world. If we do that, we will see the light of Christ spreading around the world. Let’s make this our goal, so that we can see the great prophecy of Isaiah 9:2 come to pass: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. And on those who live in the shadow of death, light has shined.”


The name of that light is Jesus Christ. You are a people of the light. Now carry the light. Be kind, be loving, be angels, messengers, people, children of the light, and I’ll see you some day, and together we will see the face of God in the light of the Lamb. Amen.

Reprinted from The Word Among Us, with permssion. Please visit their website at: www. wau.org

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