We know from John’s first letter that Jesus is light, and “in him there is no darkness at all.” God is light: this has always been hope for people living in darkness.
Today’s readings remind us, though, that Jesus did not just come to be the light for us who walked in darkness – he comes to share the light. Every baptism is a reminder to us that Jesus shares light with us, as we light a candle from the Paschal candle and hand it over to the person being baptized. “Receive the light of Christ,” we proclaim.
People sometimes complain that church teaching seems too academic, too concerned with dry philosophy – a complaint moral theologians hear often! Yet the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church notes this:
In the light and under the impulse of the Gospel
104. The documents referred to here constitute the milestones of the path travelled by the Church’s social doctrine from the time of Pope Leo XIII to our own day. This brief summary would become much longer if we considered all the interventions motivated, other than by a specific theme, by “the pastoral concern to present to the entire Christian community.” [Emphasis mine.]
That is, the aim of Catholic social teaching is “the pastoral concern” to live in light of the Gospel, that is, Jesus’ own light.
Scriptures – both Old and New Testaments – actually give a relatively simple prescription for living in the light: “share your bread with the hungry,” “shelter the oppressed and the homeless,” “clothe the naked.” There aren’t really exceptions, quid pro quos, “yes buts.” Live so that your good deeds shine out to the whole world.
Our Catholic social teaching seeks for us to live that light. We are asked to have a “preferential option for the poor”, as the Compendium notes:
182. The principle of the universal destination of goods [that is, that God has given all human beings the gift of the earth and all its creation for all our use, c.f. paragraph 171 here] requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern. To this end, the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force.
Our light shines especially when we show care and concern for those God sees as “the least of these.” We are given that task and responsibility as Christians.
Of course, such a proclamation stands especially strongly in these past few days of protest, debate, and anger at the immigration ban for people from Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, and Libya. The people coming from these countries to the US number among the oppressed – in their own countries, and often here as well. Others – the hungry, the oppressed, and the homeless who are here in our cities and workplaces, receive less press, but are no less in need of our light, too. In other words, the need to be light to others is pretty constant.
Let us, this week, share Christ’s light to all. The music clip below is one of my favorite songs on this theme.