A Feast of Light

Epiphany is a feast of light. Isaiah in the first reading says “Jerusalem, your light has come”. In the gospel, we watch the Magi as they follow the light of the star to discover the light of Christ. So Jesus is our light. But how do we know when he is shining on us?  After all, there is a great deal of darkness in our world: family crises, war, terrorist shootings. With all these evils around us, how do we know when Christ is present, when his light shines on us?

A number of years ago, there was a very serious storm in Rochester, New York. Thousands of people were without power. Utility crews were working around the clock. The customer service departments were overwhelmed with complaints. One irate customer kept an agent on the phone for over 20 minutes with a seemingly endless barrage of questions. Finally he said “Now, how will I know when my power comes back on?” The agent thought for a moment, and then in her most professional voice she said “Sir, you will know because it will be brighter than it is now.”

We should not limit our search for Jesus only to places of light. We need to find Christ’s light in the darkness. The surest sign of his presence is when things become brighter than they were before. When we look at the hostility and violence of our world, we as believers are called to look for moments when enemies begin to talk to one another or when the will of the many hold sway over the power of the few. In those moments, things become brighter, and we believe that Christ is there.

As we deal with the child abuse crisis in our church, it is important to notice the courage of parents who speak out in defense of their children, the actions of some bishops who truly put protecting children first, and the many Catholic believers who continue to support their church communities and proclaim the message of Jesus. In all of these actions, there is more light, and Christ’s love becomes visible.

There is plenty of darkness in our families. Relatives who do not speak to one another, sickness that limits our abilities, the unrealistic demands of an aging parent that exhaust us. Here, too, we must look for those actions that increase the light. When warring relatives step back rather than making things worse, when the pain of a sick person eases enough to enjoy a simple day, when an aging parent sincerely says “thank you” for all we have done, the light increases, and we believe that Jesus is in it.

The feast of the Epiphany asks us to search for those moments when things become brighter and believe that Christ is there. This approach might not be as glorious and awesome as the Magi finding the Christ child in Bethlehem, but it still is of immense value. Because whenever we can see even a bit more light, we know that we are in the presence of the Light of the World.

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