Your Light must shine

Reclaim Christ as the center of your life this Christmas
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By Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone

Each year, Advent and Christmas remind us of the centuries of prayerful expectation and hope of the people of Israel. The longing for the promised Messiah was fulfilled in the fullness of time in the city of David, the town of Bethlehem. While the Savior entered quietly into the world that first Christmas, God’s gift led even the earth to rejoice in that holy night.

We too often see darkness around us as we await our Lord’s return. Wars and conflicts around the globe, violence in our streets and workplaces, broken relationships in families and among friends seem to pervade our daily life. While the shadows of this earthly life weigh upon us, we know there is hope.

As the prophet Isaiah wrote: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). The light of God made visible that first Christmas continues to shine evermore brightly in our time. As the Church, we are called to be that light in the world, like our Lady, magnifying Jesus so that others may encounter Him.

Over the past year, the faithful of the Archdiocese of San Francisco unveiled that light to others, lifting up those in need and sharing God’s love with a suffering world. We held prayer vigils for persecuted Christians around the world, especially in Nicaragua and Hong Kong. Through our Restorative Justice Ministry, we prayed for healing and peace with families who lost loved ones to violence as well as with perpetrators in prisons who sought forgiveness. This past January, many of us joined the Half Moon Bay community in prayer at both Mountain Mushroom Farms and Concord Farms sites after the shootings to reclaim the space of death as a place of life and peace. We visited San Quentin State Prison to offer Mass, engage in Bible studies and visit with the inmates. It is a moving experience to pray with those who have had tremendous conversion experiences, working toward healing and wholeness both with the incarcerated and with victim families.

This Christmas, I encourage you to reclaim Christ as the center of your life. For peace to exist in our world, the Prince of Peace must first reign in our hearts and homes. God’s love for us and His desire for our ultimate happiness with Him in heaven surpasses our understanding.

As St. John writes in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn 3:16-17).

Jesus assumed a human nature to redeem us through His passion, death and resurrection. The night before He died, at the Last Supper, He gave us His very heart – the gift of the Eucharist – so that in His love, He could transform us to live in communion with Him and one another.

Over the centuries, God has allowed Eucharistic miracles to take place in many countries around the world. Eucharistic hosts miraculously transform into human flesh or bleed to show the truth behind our faith. Scientific studies on these Eucharistic miracles have confirmed that the flesh is heart tissue from a man who underwent severe trauma. Even science has shown that our Lord’s Sacred Heart is present on the altar and in every tabernacle, an everlasting reminder of God’s eternal love for His people.

At every Mass, God brings us His light and life, desiring us to live with Him and in Him through the Most Holy Eucharist. Jesus, living in us, transforms us from within, becoming his presence in the world. The commonness of our daily life becomes opportunities to share the love of God and bring God’s light to others.

After preaching on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5: 14-16).

Living our faith in society today can be difficult. We may face opposition or even persecution. But being that light of God’s love in the world is needed now more than ever – affirming the dignity of every human life, loving our enemies, praying for those who do not understand our faith and reconciling with those who have wronged us or whom we have offended. In doing so, we bring peace into the world and give glory to God, through Whom all things are possible.

May you and your families have a blessed and holy Christmas, and may the Lord guide our feet in the way of peace.