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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. One day this week in the Church, I noticed a lady lighting a candle from another and placing it in the shrine. As I watched the brightness from the newly lit candle shine on her face, I wondered to myself what she had in mind when she lit that candle. Was it for a friend? Was it for someone who is sick or was it for herself? Whatever the answer was, this simple act of faith of lighting a candle in the Church, meant far more than she realized. Here’s why.

The Gospel today presents us with the story of Jesus’ transfiguration when he led Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor. There, he was transfigured as he prayed and became radiant with the light of God in a way that allowed Peter, James and John to see him not just as human but also as divine.

Elsewhere in the Gospels, the symbol of light is also linked with Jesus’ divinity. At his Presentation, Simeon described him as ‘the light to enlighten the Gentiles’ (Luke 2:32). He is ‘the light of the world’ (John 8:12) who rose at dawn on Easter Sunday and dispelled the darkness. For St John who witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, to come into God’s presence is entering into the light for ‘God is light and there is no darkness in him at all’ (1 John 1:5). For John, living in God’s light is closely linked to seeing what is true and right: ‘Everyone one who does wrong hates the light and avoids it for fear his actions should be exposed. But the one who lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God’ (John 3:20). In the Creed we say every Sunday, Jesus is described as ‘Light from Light, true God from true God’.

For us who believe in Christ and because of our baptism, we have received his light and bear it within us. On the day we were baptized, our baptismal candle was lit from the paschal candle and was handed to our parents with the words ‘Receive the light of Christ’. When we renew our baptismal promises at Easter, we hold a candle lit once again from the Paschal candle. All of this is symbolic of a profound truth, namely that we bear within us the light of God which is the light of the transfigured and risen Lord. It is the light that assures us that we will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12). That is why in Christian art, the images of the saints and Jesus himself have halos for they are radiant with the light of God.

Friends, when we take the time for prayer this Lent, we come in contact with the presence and light of God. When we pray, we see more clearly who God is and who we are. Prayer is like climbing a mountain where we can see the panoramic view of what we can’t see on the ground. This is the fruit of prayer that enables us to see a new and bigger perspective and to find greater meaning and hope. As one candle is lit from another without dimming the light of the first, so God loses nothing of his brightness when he shares his light with us. He is the source of light – the light of wisdom, of peace, of truth, of love, of justice and grace. This is the light we encounter when we visit a Church to light a candle, when we read the Gospels and prayerfully listen to his voice as the Father asks us. We absorb this light by studying our faith in the Catechism, when we read the lives of the saints, when we fast for a good cause and when we give alms.

And so, for example, when we put something into the Trocaire box this year, we become a light of hope to the people of Malawi

Spread the light of Christ this week and this Lent. Let the light of our faith ignite in our hearts, minds and imaginations. Be missionaries of light - living torches, radiant with the light of the transfiguration and resurrection. In the words of St John of the Cross: ‘Let God’s Word print itself upon you. Let the Gospel light anoint your mind’ (St John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, II, 3.3). Wherever there is darkness, despair, sin, anger, hurt, conflict or depression, bring that light of Christ to a world that badly needs it. Together we can make this world a brighter place. Come Lord Jesus and be our Light this week!

‘O lamp of fire burning bright with wondrous brilliance, turning deep caverns of my soul to pools of light’ (St John of the Cross, Living Flame of Love).


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