Over the past four weeks of Advent, we have been preparing for the Great Joy of the Christmas that we are today gathered here to celebrate. We celebrate Christmas as a community of believers together with all Christians around the world. And so, today is a day of Great Rejoicing because we are celebrating what in today’s First Reading, Prophet Isaiah proclaims, “the Lord . . . brings good news, He heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation . . .”
More importantly, these words of the Prophet Isaiah are fulfilled in the Words of the Gospel of St John that we just heard proclaimed which says, “He is the Light that shines in the dark, a Light that darkness could not overpower.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, for us to appreciate our celebration of Christmas more deeply, I would like us to reflect on the images of “Light and Darkness” that our Readings speak of and how they are found in the world and also in our hearts. It is my hope that our reflection in this homily will deepen your desires and mine to shine forth Christ’s Light more brightly in our world of darkness and sin, and also in our hearts and homes.
Let us begin reflecting on what we find as “darkness” in the world. Research tells us that we have 7.4 billion people in the world today. 795 million people do not have enough to eat and are undernourished. More than 2 billion are micronutrient deficient i.e. they suffer from “hidden hunger” of malnutrition. And 3.1 million children or 8,500 children die each day from poor nutrition. 1.7 billion people lack access to clean water. 2.2 billion people especially those in developing countries live on less than US$2.00 per day. 22,000 children die daily due to the conditions of poverty.
In contrast to such dire poverty, the global household wealth has reached, USD250 trillion; which is USD250,000 billion. However, in 2015, just 62 individuals had wealth that is equal to 3.6 billion people who belong to the bottom poorer half of humanity. The 10% richest people own 87% of the global household wealth in the world. In the area of our environment, scientists estimate that we are now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate i.e. if there were no humans around to destroy the species. In other words, literally dozens of species go extinct daily. In fact, 99% of currently threatened species are caused by global warming; a result of human activities.
I could go on adding to the list and spell out the “darkness” of the world that we are each living in today, but I think the picture is clear enough for us to know that we human beings are literally destroying our own human race and the precious gift of the beauty of creation that God has originally given to us. In other words, we have made a mess and continue to mess up the world and all human life and relationships through our self-centred and sinful living.
If this is the “darkness” of our world, where then can we find the true Hope and Light that can dispel the darkness? This True Hope is precisely what we are celebrating today; the True Hope and the True Light that is found in the Infant Messiah.
Last Monday morning, we all have read of how several people were wounded and one person was killed in an AYE tragic accident, where the driver, for whatever reasons drove against the traffic. Well that person, Jackie Liong was someone I knew; he was only 37 years of age; he was a man that we full of joy, life, humour, and deep faith. He was merely driving with his wife Venny presumably to work when the tragic accident took place.
Well, I presided at the Mass two days ago on Friday morning and what is totally beyond everyone’s comprehension, especially for Venny, Jackie’s wife was why must such a tragedy happen to such a young and good man? No words could fully soothe the pain and trauma of Venny and Jackie’s family, except to reassure them that Jackie who lived his faith so fervently and being such a good man would surely mean that Jackie is now at peace with God, and with all the angels and saints in heaven; that there is no longer any suffering for Jackie.
In my homily, I admitted that when I first read in the newspaper account that the maximum penalty for the person causing such traffic death and injury is 5 years imprisonment, I was upset. However, upon further reflection on what happened, and especially when we do not know what the driver was going through in his life, when he caused such a tragic accident, I was reminded of what Jesus said on the Cross as He was looking down on His persecutors and prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” As Christians, we too are called to forgive the person who caused deep hurts, pain and even death in our lives. And, even as the spouse, family, friends were traumatised by the tragic event . . . the Truth and the Light of the Gospel, is that we become God’s Forgiving Love to the driver who caused the accident.
To celebrate Christmas, today’s Gospel of St John proclaims that it is the Light of the Infant Messiah that our pain, sufferings and darkness in life can make sense. And so St John affirms, “All that came to be had life in Him and that life was the Light of men; a Light that shines in the dark, a Light that darkness could not overpower.”
As I conclude, my sisters and brothers in Christ, let us be more fully conscious that the world we live in is literally in “darkness”. There is so much suffering and pain through: the injustices, broken relationships, crises in families, traumas in deaths, destruction of God’s created Beauty, the great contrasts of wealth distribution, the lack of willingness to show compassion and forgiveness toward others and the like.
Meanwhile, let us remember that there are the people we know who are drifting in their lives with the masses who are too caught up with the materialistic and secular world and are living miserably without hope. They all need to be led to the Light of Christ which is born to us at Christmas. So, let us allow today’s Gospel of St John to challenge us with the truth that if God’s Light is to shine and dispel the darkness of division and destruction through our self-centredness and sinfulness, then let us not turn away from our Christian responsibilities and fidelity to be that “light” of Christ to others.
More specifically, let us search our hearts and ask ourselves, “Have we truly been God’s Light” to others in our family, friends and the world? For those of us who are already beaming the Light of Christ, let us allow the Light of Christ to shine through us even more brightly. Indeed, in spite of the “darkness” in our world, there are still many people who truly live the Good News and are beaming Christ’s Light brightly.
Let us draw inspirations from them and try to participate in God’s Plan of Enlightening the world. If the 1.5 billion Catholics around the world were to do this, even in little ways, the world will be transformed into Joyful Hope, Peace and Love that achieves the purpose of why God has chosen to be born into our world. we can be sure that Yes, God would surely want to give all of us the graces we need to transform all forms of darkness in this world into the Light of the Peace of Christ in this world not only at Christmas, but at all times during our lives.
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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