Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we move into December, an extra darkness characterizes the physical world. It’s fitting that people are putting up lights in the midst of that darkness. The sight of those lights brings us a certain kind of joy and peace.
We all experience darkness in our hearts, as well — each in our own unique way. In those places of internal darkness, it’s important for us to receive the light of God’s grace. The readings from the prophet Isaiah speak to that in a special way this week, the first week of Advent.
All week, we hear the message he brought to a time of national darkness for ancient Israel. There was uncertainty and fear in people’s hearts, and God sent them messages of hope: “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom,” “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples” and so on. Seven times in Wednesday’s reading Isaiah speaks of what the Lord will do and then 14 times in Saturday’s reading! God was sending the light of hope into the darkness of people’s hearts. The season of Advent draws us into that same hope.
There’s moral darkness, too — places where our culture is fundamentally confused about right and wrong. It’s important for us to bring the light of the Gospel to those places of moral darkness. How can we do so?
We celebrate the feast of St. Andrew this week (Nov. 30). One of the greatest descriptions of Andrew comes from the Gospel of John. Describing his interaction with Peter, it says simply: “he brought him to Jesus.”
Now don’t misunderstand me: theology is enormously helpful in all kinds of ways. But Andrew didn’t need a degree in theology to share his experience of Jesus, and neither do we. When we share our experience of Jesus, we bring light into dark places — and our world needs more light!
We celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier — the great Jesuit missionary priest — this week (Dec. 3). He brought the light of Christ to faraway places. But today, perhaps the greatest mission field is closer to home: our own neighborhoods and workplaces.
Many of us are, or soon will be, putting up Christmas lights. That’s great! When we do so, we push back against the darkness with a physical symbol of Christ’s light. May we just as readily accept the light of God’s grace in our hearts and just as readily offer the light of the Gospel to the world.