Christ the King Catholic Church
"The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light." The words of the Prophet Isaiah that we heard in today's first reading are repeated in the Gospel as Jesus begins his public ministry.
Darkness and light are powerful metaphors of how God works in our lives.
November 9, 1965, darkness came upon much of the land when the lights went out for 25 million people in the eastern part of the United States and the southeastern part of Canada. It was the first large-scale 'blackout' experienced in the United States.
In New York City tens of thousands of people were sitting in railroad cars, standing in darkened subway stations, stuck between floors in elevators in tall skyscrapers, not knowing what had happened, how long it would last and if it was, perhaps, the end of the world.
There were many reactions to the darkness that enveloped people's lives that day. Some people were angry, and some tried to take advantage of the situation. But the blackout of November 9, 1965, stands out because the majority of people who experienced it, came together in an amazing spirit of good will and concern for one another.
Stories are told of people caught in trains, subway stations and elevators breaking into strains of 'Amazing Grace' and 'Nearer My God to Thee.' People who had passed each other for years on their way home from work without even a nod of the head, noticed each other and began to talk and sing together. People who were usually more concerned about getting themselves home, were suddenly more concerned about the safety and comfort of others.
The New York Times ran a report on a subway worker who was suffering from shock, not because of the blackout, but by what he had seen during the blackout. For the first time in the many years that he had worked as an attendant in the
subway, he actually saw people stopping and letting others get out first. The shock was almost too much for him!
A stranded couple on the subway asked the conductor if he had the same powers as a captain of a ship because they wanted to get married.
The police reported that during that first blackout, when the possibility for crime was up, the crime rate actually fell during the thirteen hours that the blackout lasted.
One of the important lessons that came from the New York blackout was that the neon lights, the big marquis and the glitter that are so much a part of the city had actually blinded people to many things - above all they had blinded people to one another.
It was almost a Camelot story. For one, brief shining moment a people huddled together in darkness caught a glimpse of a new kind of light, in which they actually saw each other. For a few hours they forgot the rat race and found themselves speaking and listening to one another. One group that had been trapped together in an elevator for those thirteen hours, held annual reunions for many years after.
And yet, everyone who lived through that blackout welcomed the light when it was restored thirteen hours later. At the dawn of each day we welcome the light.
"The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light." In today's Gospel, Saint Matthew applies the words of the Prophet Isaiah to the coming of Jesus into our world. For long centuries people had waited for the Messiah and his coming was like a ray of light shining in the darkness.
This image of Jesus as a light that shines for us in our darkness is a powerful way of understanding our Christian life. We live in a world in which there is much darkness, and in this world, we are called to choose the light. Jesus is a light that shines in our darkness.
When Saint Paul wrote his Letter to the Corinthians he speaks of a darkness within the Christian community of Corinth. Christians were divided. Some said that they belonged to Paul, others to Apollo and so on. Paul tells them that they all belong to Christ.
We have just concluded the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We are reminded of a darkness that has lasted for centuries now and of which we are all a part. We have divided Christ's Church. The night before he died, Jesus prayed that we would all be one so that the world might know that he had come from God. Today there are 33,820 identifiable Christian denominations. Each time we act in a way that fuels this division, we choose the darkness over the light, and each time we act in a way that helps foster unity and understanding among believers in Jesus, we take a step from darkness into light.
In this past year we heard people refer to themselves as Archbishop Thompson Catholics or Cathedral Catholics or Brebeuf Catholics. If these are new denominations, there are then 33,823 Christian denominations. And yet Christ is one. The Spirit that we have been given is a Spirit of unity. The devil divides. Jesus unites.
We have just marked the 47th anniversary of Roe V. Wade and we recognize the terrible darkness of abortion and the growing disrespect for life that we have witnessed in our country since that Supreme Court decision in 1973. It fueled a darkness that hangs over our country. Advocates for abortion moved from saying that abortions should be rare to celebrating the removal of all restrictions on abortions. While New York City refused to light up the Empire State Building in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the lighting up of the World Trade Center in pink and state legislators opened bottles of champagne to celebrate the passing of a bill that removed almost all restrictions on abortions up until the moment of birth.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington D.C. this week to protest the Roe v. Wade Decision at the Annual March for Life. Hundreds gathered in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul here in Indianapolis this past Wednesday to pray for an end to abortion. The March for Life and our unrelenting prayer for an end to abortion and all the forms that disrespect for human life take in our world today, are steps we take from darkness into light.
This coming Monday will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi extermination camps at Auschwitz. We are reminded of the darkness of the inhumanity of man to man. A darkness that appalls people of good will and yet is denied by many. The rise in recent violent attacks against our Jewish brothers and sisters is a reminder of this darkness that still exists. And our silence and our apathy in the face of this violence fosters the darkness that we are called to reject.
In a culture in which a majority of self-proclaimed Christians, including Catholics, no longer keep holy the Lord's Day, we see the darkness that envelops a society in which God is not only ignored, but excluded from public life and openly ridiculed and mocked by the popular culture in which we live.
Each time we make the decision to come to Mass, each time we make the decision that, "As for me and my house, we will follow the Lord," each time we pray together as a family, each time we take time to read the scriptures, especially the Gospel, we take a step out of darkness.
"The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light." The Christian life is one of continual conversion, continually moving from darkness into light. But it is something more. The Apostles, whom Jesus called in today's Gospel, recognized the light that had come into the world and they followed that light. And, little by little, they reflected that light to others. They did not keep that light for themselves. Jesus tells us in Mathew's Gospel that you do not put a lamp under a bushel basket, but you place it on a lampstand so that all in the house can see it.
There is darkness in the world. But a light has come into the world and, as Saint John tells us in the beautiful prologue to his Gospel, the darkness has not overcome this light. Each of us, as a follower of Jesus, is called to reflect this light to the world around us.
Jesus has many fans in the world. But he doesn't need fans. He needs disciples who will reflect his light to the world around. We are called to be those disciples today.
"The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light." We are the that people. What shall we do with the light we have seen?