The Light that Shines in the Darkness
Deacon Richard Haber December 10, 2017
Good morning. E=mc2. We’re all familiar with this equation which is one of Einstein’s greatest discoveries. The ‘c’ in the equation stands for the speed of light. Light is one of the fundamental characteristics of our universe. It is remarkable in that the speed of light is the same for all observers and nothing, no signal can go faster than the speed of light. Light brings us information and we have learned a great deal about our universe by analyzing the characteristics of the light from distant stars and galaxies. So light is a good metaphor for Jesus. In the beginning of John’s Gospel, Jesus is referred to as the light of the world and that divine light contains the most important knowledge of all: the knowledge of God’s love for us all which redeems us and takes us out of the darkness of our selfishness. John says in his Prologue, Jesus’ life “was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Matthew and Luke begin their Gospels with the story of Jesus’ birth, with angels, shepherds, and magi. John’s Gospel begins with Jesus as the divine Logos. Mark’s Gospel begins very simply with a stark statement. “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Although this is a simple statement it is redolent with meaning.
A little context helps us unpack the power of Mark’s simple opening of his Gospel. His Gospel was written around 70AD at a time of great turmoil in Galilee. There’s war. There are revolts in Rome and Jerusalem is under siege and about to be destroyed. There’s a lot of uncertainty. There is a small band of Galileans who follow the heretical leader Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified some 30- 40 years earlier. Who has the truth? Who is right? Which path should I follow? Do I side with the Romans, the Zealots, the gentiles? Where can I find truth and a light to shine on my darkness? Mark simply states “ the good news of Jesus Christ , the Son of God.” The rest of his Gospel shows how Jesus is the Messiah; He is the way, the truth and the life.
800 or so years earlier, Isaiah a great prophet, lived in similar circumstances with wars and divided kingdoms. Israel’s Northern Kingdom had collapsed and King Uzziah reigned in Judah. Isaiah’s prophetic ministry took place during this time and he prophesied that one day there would be wonderful news. God promised that a Messiah would one day come to Israel. “O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings…say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God.’” He goes on to prophesy that there would be a herald announcing the coming of this Messiah. “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Mark’s audience would have remembered Isaiah’s prophecy that Mark alludes to. He then introduces John the Baptist dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt alluding to another great prophet, Ezechiel. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled and we are witnesses to this.
There are two baptisms in today’s Gospel. One is the baptism of John and the other is the baptism of the “one who is more powerful than I.” John must have been a striking figure because people flocked to him from all the countryside and Jerusalem itself. They all felt a longing for something they are unable to name. John called them to conversion. They are to repent of their sins and live according to the teachings of their great prophets: according to the great commandment to love God and their neighbour. “Here, O Israel,! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (Deut 6:4) As a sign of their conversion, John baptized them with water. In a few moments, we will baptize Zyth and Zydrick using water just as John did. But there is a huge difference between John’s baptism and their baptism. They will be baptized with water and the Holy Spirit. When we bless the waters of the fount we invoke the Holy Spirit to make the earthly water, ‘living water’, the water of eternal life. Like the pool at Bethsaida, the waters of the fount heal us and restore us to life in God.
John’s baptism with water- only, may lead to forgiveness of our sins if we truly repent. But water alone cannot restore us to life with God. It is only the Holy Spirit who makes us one with Jesus that saves us for all eternity. We cannot save ourselves. We can promise to turn our lives around, to repent as a preparation but we cannot make ourselves righteous before God. It is only Christ’s redeeming life, death and resurrection , his obedience to his Father’s will, which makes us righteous and heirs of God’s kingdom. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize..means to ‘plunge’ or ‘immerse.’; the ‘plunge’into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him as a ‘new creature.””This sacrament is also called the ‘washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,’ for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one “can enter the kingdom of God.” (CCC #1214 and1215.).
It is through baptism that we put on the armour of light and so can light the way for our brothers and sisters who are lost in the darkness. At our baptisms we were given a small baptismal candle lit from the Paschal candle and told to keep this flame burning brightly.
Our Montreal poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen captures the importance of being a light in the darkened world around us.
“There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in.”
By holding firmly to our belief “of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”, and by living our daily lives authentically so that others may see that it is “good news”, we become the cracks in the walls of those imprisoned by sin and falsehood through which the light shines.
“See, the Lord God comes with might
his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” Amen