The light of the nations

The light, of course, doesn’t tell us what to do.  The light shines on the path, but it is up to the seer to choose to follow it.

I belong to a religious community, the Society of Jesus, seared by history.  We had growing success in the early decades of our founding, but opposition soon arose.  There were times when the light grew dim and once it went out altogether, or so it seemed.  We were totally shut down by the pope and spent forty years in the desert.

Everyone looks for a light in their life – some person or idea to guide them.  Often the person will disappear or the idea will no longer inspire.  We are restless people always in search of something that will satisfy us. The Carthusians, a religious community far older than the Jesuist, have a motto; Stat crux dum volvitur orbis, the cross stands while the earth goes round. The cross is the rock in a swirling sea.

Traditional societies and religious traditions can sustain us but they can fail to satisfy after a time. So what is this mysterious ‘light of the nations’ that Isaiah promises us? Jesus came and said ‘I am the light’ and at another time he said, ‘you are the light’. Simeon in the temple spoke of it and the wise men from the east saw it as a star.

It is the gift that is offered to all people; a light in our hearts that will always show us the way – even if it seems obscure for a while.  When that gift is welcomed and finds a home in us it sustains us and shows us the way, always and unfailingly. ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’.  It is the gift of Christmas which stays with us.

If we have some knowledge of history we will be very aware of constant change over the centuries. However grim our own times may appear to us they are a great improvement on those of our ancestors. The task before us is to use the light to see our way through the complex influences constantly coming to meet us. So much of modern culture is trying to attract us and bind us to itself. Ours is the task of equally constantly shining our light on these movements to see if they help or hinder.

19 January 2020          Sunday 2A

Isaiah 49:3-6                I Cor 1:3-6                   John 1:29-34

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