Immersed in Christ: January 3, 2021
The Feast of the Epiphany
Awareness of the Light
Lord, every nation on earth will adore you. (Responsorial: Psalm 72)
What experience have you had of darkness? Did you recognize it as darkness at the time? Have you ever been in a place where no one showed any awareness of God? How did you feel?
What is more common than the light of day? We live and work by it, taking sunlight for granted. But the truth is, sunlight does not belong to our world. The light we have most need of to live on this earth does not come from this earth. It comes from the sun, ninety million miles outside of our orbit. Without light from “outer space” there would simply be no daylight. Or moonlight. Or starlight. We would live mostly in the dark.
Perhaps God guided the Magi by a star to make the point that no one comes to Christ except by following a light that is not of this world.
Not even of this universe. Nor any created light. But light from God alone.
We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that we may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.1
We need to keep ourselves aware of this. Only then will the light within us shine out to give light to the world. Then Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
In the Alternate Opening Prayer we ask God to “draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes, to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete.” With the light of this created universe we can only act within “the limits which this world imposes.” To arrive at “the life where Christ’s Spirit makes all life complete,” we need to keep repeating, “Star of wonder, star of might, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to thy perfect light.”
Facts and Promise
Isaiah 60: 1-6 is an invitation based on a proclamation: “Rise up in splendor! Arise, shine! For your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines upon you!”
Without the proclamation, the invitation would have no power. Its impelling force is based on two facts and a promise.
The first fact should be obvious, although its reality is misunderstood by many: “See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples.” Everyone grants there is darkness and clouded vision on earth, but many assume the darkness is just poor judgment, and that the clouds obscure only what unbiased minds should be able to see. And they are right—within “the limits which this world imposes.” What they don’t see is that every human culture, while better or worse, if not corrected and supplemented by a light that is not of this world, is “darkness.”
The “thick clouds that cover the peoples” are the assumptions, common in the defectively educated, that religion is irrelevant and revelation non-existent. They ignore the invitation because the second fact—“your light has come”—is not evident to them. The truth is, “Upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.” But they are blind to it. Like those blinded by the lights of the city, they cannot see the stars.
The promise is addressed to believers: “Nations shall walk by your light.... Your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters....” Family members who have turned away from the Church will return. Even cultures will be converted and nations walk in justice and peace.
If what? If we “Rise up in splendor and shine!” The light that is within us must shine out. It wasn’t given to be covered by a basket. We are meant and sent to be stars: to guide the world to Christ by a light given to us that is not of this world. But we have to be aware of it.
Matthew 2: 1-12 tells us the story of the Magi. Presumably, they were “pagan” stargazers who sought to know God by studying the rhythm of the universe. In the stars, whose fire was considered a “pure element,” they looked for the God of pure Truth, pure Goodness, pure Being and Life.
So God invited them through a star, a symbol from their own religion. But after they had seen what he called them to see, they “went back to their own country by another route.” They were changed men, walking a different path.
And the light was shining within them. They had become stars. They were sent home to let the new light that was in them shine out as a revelation of God. They—they themselves—were now the Light of the world. Isaiah had said to believers, “Nations shall walk by your light....” Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” 2
In Jesus, “the true light, which enlightens everyone,” came into the world. “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.”
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people... [Yet] his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.
Children of the Father, sons and daughters “in the Son.” And, because we are “in him” and he in us, we are the Light of the world.
If only, and only if, we let our light shine.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son....
Now, however, it is we, the believers, who are the “only sons and daughters of the Father” on earth. Unless his glory is “made flesh” in us it will not be seen in our world. In us “the light shines in the darkness.” In Jesus, “the darkness did not overcome it.” If in our time, in our country and culture, professional environment, family and social life, “darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples,” it means we are failing to shine. 3
But if we “let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven,” the promise will be fulfilled: Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
In Ephesians 3: 2-6 it is evident that Paul was aware of who he was, of his call and his mission, and of God’s empowering grace:
I, Paul, am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles....[because] of the ministry God gave me... the mystery... made known to me by revelation...that in Christ Jesus the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise through the preaching of the gospel..
The last words say it: everything comes about and depends on “the preaching of the Gospel.” Before it can be seen, the light has to shine. “Preaching” the Good News means letting the glory of God’s light in us shine out in all we are, say and do. It is we who are the Epiphany. We are the “manifestation of his glory” now, even while we still “wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” We, letting the light of God shine out in us, are the fact that makes the promise credible. We are the “preview of the Parousia.” If people don’t see the preview, it is not likely they will put much stock in the movie. 4
The first thing we have to do, however, is cultivate awareness. How can we make the life of God in us visible if we are not aware we have it? How can we let the truth we know by God’s light appear in our words and actions if we are not conscious of what it is, not aware of what we know? How can we show the “fruit of the Spirit” in our comportment—love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, fidelity, gentleness and self-control—if we are not aware of how much we ourselves are loved, what reason we have for joy, how Jesus has given us peace? The first phase of evangelization is awareness. 5
Do I appreciate more how important it is to be aware of the light and life in me?
Form the habit of deliberately trying to express divine truth, life, love.
1 1Peter 2:9. 2 Matthew 5:14-16.
3 Read John 1:1-18. 4 Titus 2:13. 5 Galatians 5:22.