Third Sunday of Year “A”
Seeing the Light
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone (Is 9: 1)
Nearly all the world’s major religions are faithful to a central tenet expressed as a parable of light (about ‘enlightenment’ or ‘revelation’), such as:
- light shining forth in the darkness;
- a kindly light guides us through life’s difficulties to a final destination.
Christianity is unique in envisaging a divine light enshrined at the very heart of a human life.
Jesus, for us, is Light of the World.
What is more, the deepest meaning of our Baptism is that we ourselves have the capacity to reflect that light in the way we live our own lives. The Baptismal candle that we receive represents the Light of Christ, God’s anointed One. It is a sign of divine faith sustaining our human nature in union with Jesus Christ – but only if we allow that to happen!
And of course the fact that we have a shared faith means that we also:
- encourage one another,
- guide one another,
- sustain one another,
along the paths of life.
This is because, through our Baptism, we become members together of Christ’s body, the Church, the city on the hill that cannot be hidden.
We would not wish to hide our light under a bushel!
At the heart of today’s Gospel we come across a further image, particularly important for the life of the Church, in the opening line of our Lord’s ministry: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand’.
This is an invitation, issued ultimately for all humanity, to share in the new life that is ours when we allow the light of Christ truly to enter our lives.
Jesus speaks of a heavenly Kingdom which we now associate with his person – he is our King, but not in the way of the world. When we live in an earthly “kingdom’ (or an empire or a republic), we are normally involved in paying taxes and (some of us) in enlisting in the military at certain times. We have to live with our rulers, paying them homage as fallible human beings.
When the first disciples heard Our Lord’s invitation to follow Him, though, they did not hesitate to join in. They knew very little of what was to come, least of all the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Slightly later, St Paul would be called to mission by the Risen Christ Himself, when he saw the blinding light of the Gospel and heard the voice of Jesus on the road to Damascus.
In our lives as Christians we might sometimes compare ourselves with St Paul, sustained as we are by the good news of the Resurrection. But our lives are perhaps most comparable to those of the first disciples who followed Jesus without knowing what the future would bring.
The Year Ahead
Certainly we do not know the future. But in practising our faith we have received the Christian virtue of Hope, and so we are enabled to talk about the future with confidence. At this time of the year, we have the best part of 2017 still before us and (as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) this year brings us some special opportunities within the church in our part of the world.
In the coming weeks, we shall be participating in the diocesan “Alive in Faith” programme in order to raise funds for the training of future priests. In other parts of the diocese, funds are also being raised for priests’ retirement; as a Benedictine parish (together with our neighbouring parish of Bungay) we aren’t participating in the ‘retirement’ part of the diocesan scheme because our community at Downside already makes provision for priests’ retirement.
However, we do need to play an active role in raising funds for the training of diocesan priests.
Whereas the number of vocations at Downside has recently been in decline, there are now at least ten seminarians in training to be priests for the diocese of East Anglia. This training costs around £30,000 per seminarian per year. Those with good memories will recall that our parish has already been served by at least one diocesan priest. Fr Simon was with us between 1995 and 2003 and, amongst many other duties, was responsible for the design of the sanctuary as we see it today.
In the future, we shall continue to be dependent upon the ministry of our diocesan priests and we are encouraged to support the appeal which will begin in earnest at the beginning of next month.
Further details will be handed out after Mass in a fortnight’s time and there will be plenty of ‘follow up’ within the parish. There is already a good deal of information about “Alive in Faith” and further details can be found by clicking on this link to the diocesan website. The programme has a great deal to offer us in the present and for the future. It can indeed be seen as a gift to the church and as a great opportunity to provide for the years to come.
We are planning for the appeal to start in St Benet’s on 05 February. The process will last just a few weeks, but the aim of “Alive in Faith” is to seek pledges covering your giving for the coming 5 years.
- Remember that our churches and clergy were provided by our predecessors.
- Bear in mind that future generations are dependent on what we give, today.
- Please be generous in your pledges!
May your light shine in the sight of men so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven (Mt 5: 16)