Written on: January 29, 2024
By Sister Eileen White, GNSH
Special to Bucks County Courier Times
By now, the lights of the Christmas season are long gone from the houses and apartments in my neighborhood, and also from my own residence. My tree surrendered its lights on the 12th day of Christmas, and it has pretty much been consumed by goats in a nearby farm sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer. Our hemisphere relishes the lengthening of daylight since the solstice marked the longest night. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was, himself, a light in our nation and our world, and whose radiance, I hope, has not been extinguished.
One challenging declaration by Jesus the Christ, whom Christians regard as the “light of the world,” is this one from the 5th chapter of Matthew’s gospel in the Christian New Testament:
You are the light of the world . . . Let your light so shine before others that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.
We are accustomed to recognizing people like King who let his light shine before others, but Jesus is talking to all the listeners and we Christians believe that what he said then, he meant for everyone who would believe in him in the future. So, what does that mean for us? for me? How are we, as individuals and as a community, letting our light shine?
I recall some of the experiences I have had recently with people who were “light” for me. Recently, a network of thieves tried to steal my car by smashing the window and using their super-duper start up skills. They failed, but they destroyed the ignition mechanism, so I called the police to make a report. The police officer who came was so kind, so patient, so sympathetic. After a short while standing in the cold, she invited me to sit in her police car. Is she always like that for everyone? I don’t know. But I do know that her demeanor was a great comfort to me. She let her light shine for me.
An elderly friend of mine is a resident in a senior facility that provides help with activities of daily living. While visiting her recently, I met several of the aides who care for her in sundry ways. They all came from countries other than the USA and they were all persons of color different from us. Each was joy-filled, patient, solicitous, and caring. Each let her light shine for me and my friend.
Robert Fulghum, author of the book, It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, shares a story told by a professor he had when he studied in Greece. As a young boy, the professor found a fragment of mirror left behind when a German motorcycle crashed. He discovered that the mirror could reflect light into the darkest corners if he tilted it just right. Fulghum continues the professor’s story:
“As I grew older I learned that reflecting light is not just a child’s game. It is a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light, or the source of the light, but I can reflect the light. The light which we know–faith, truth, understanding, knowledge—is always there, but it will not shine into the darkest places unless I reflect it. I have come to understand this as the meaning of life. I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the dark places of human hearts – and change some things in some people. Perhaps others seeing it happen will do likewise.”
My religious community, my prayer group, my circle of friends, my Church, my country – all of us can reflect the light. I invite you to think and pray about the ways that you have seen light reflected by others and the ways that you, yourself, have reflected the light. How will you find a way in these darkest times to keep on reflecting the light that is always there?
From a Faith Perspective appears in the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer, and we are grateful for their permission to share it here. Sr. Eileen White, GNSH is a frequent contributor. It was published in the Sunday, January 14, 2024 edition.