Sunday, December 17, 2017

Mirrors And Candles

Light figures prominently today as evidenced by the three lit candles on our Advent Wreath.   We all love the light.  It enables us to see the wonders of the world around us.  Light is necessary for photosynthesis and plant growth.  And, of course a star-lit, winter night sky seems like thousands, no, millions of burning-bright candles shining throughout the universe.  They have been lit by God.

Somewhat ominously the winter Solstice is at 11:28 AM this Thursday on the 21st of December when the hours of darkness are the longest.  It’s the year’s longest night when we complain about the lack of light, and the cold.  December 25 was selected for the birth of Christ likely because the days finally get longer.  The light of Christ’s birth begins to end our darkness as we move towards lengthening days and then the rebirth of spring and Lent leading to Easter. 

Speaking of light, once upon a time, a monk was traveling and preaching when he found himself visiting the sultan of Egypt.  He was treated royally and brought into a room with the most incredible paintings.  He was told they were painted by the illustrious master Karaguz hundreds of years before.  They were priceless, irreplaceable.  


The monk noticed that one wall was completely and conspicuously empty, and he motioned toward it.  The sultan explained that Karaguz had died before he could begin to paint on the wall.  No one dared to match his skill and expertise.  The monk was silent a moment and then spoke boldly.

“I can create something for that wall that will surpass by far the other paintings.  Allow me a few days; curtain off the area; and give me privacy. I need some things, rags, powdered silver, and antimony.” The king was incredulous. 

The monk went to work.  He mixed a paste of the silver and antimony.   He covered the wall with it and then worked hard, rubbing it into the surface.  After it dried, it was polished. 

He called the sultan into see.  The sultan was stunned.  It was true – the wall was beautiful.  It was a mirror that reflected the other paintings, and now they all seemed to be moving.  They were vibrant and radiant.  All the paintings were spectacular; they came alive.  The sultan was pleased.

On this Third Sunday of Advent this story tells us what we must do.  We are told to be mirrors to reflect Christ’s light on each other and those around us. That light can make us spectacular.  It happens when we reflect Jesus by what we say and by what we do always with him in mind.

We become his mirrors when we testify to and for him.  People can be convinced to believe and follow Jesus Christ through us.  Today’s Gospel from John tells us this.  It reads:  “A man named John the Baptist was sent from God.  He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.”

And how can we testify like John the Baptist?   What testimony on behalf of Christ can we provide?  Our first reading from Isaiah gives us the blueprint or recipe.  It reads: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…”  

We are to bring joy to the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captives.  That’s part of our Catholic mission this Advent made clear by our Giving Trees designed to bring glad tidings to the poor and comfort the sad and brokenhearted.   Each envelope represents a candle that lights up when it’s removed from the tree – it’s a candle that will burn with the light of Christ when it’s taken from the tree.  When left on the tree, it’s just a piece of paper.

Today on Gaudete Sunday we lit the wreath’s rose candle that signifies joy we are supposed to give to those who need us – to whom Jesus leads us.   Remember we are baptized to follow where Jesus leads.  He’s our torch, our lantern guiding us with his light to those in need of compassion and joy.
 
Nevertheless, there are times when each of us cannot see the light.  We are in darkness caused by guilt, regret, loneliness, despair, and depression.  This is one reason why Advent is so important to us.   It’s to bring us hope.   Remember that the first two candles symbolize hope, and then peace.   The fourth is love.

In the middle is our Christ Candle that provides an Advent message strangely enough not provided by a Christian.  It’s provided by a Hindu who had great respect for Jesus – Mahatma Gandhi.  He said, “A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness can be spread without diminishing that of  yourself.”

Each of us is one of those thousand candles we light from the Christ candle.  The challenge is for us to keep our flames burning brightly helping other people find their way out of their darkness by giving them hope, peace, joy, and love.

Deacon David Pierce

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