Let Your Light Shine

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A homily on John 17: 11b-19 during Mass for Jesuit novices at the Sacred Heart Novitiate of the Vietnam Jesuit Province.

My Dear Brothers in Christ!

In the Gospel of John, the word “world” is repeated several times. It is to say it has several meanings. In today’s Gospel, before going back to his Father, Jesus shows his concern for his disciples who are still in the world. Jesus is no longer in the world, but his disciples are in the world. Therefore, Jesus prays to his Father that the Father will keep them.

The world… What does it mean?

Some people see the world with only one eye. In other words, they see the world in one way: fighting. People are constantly at war with others, constantly battling each other to get above the other. People don’t work together. People don’t care about each other, etc. They see the world through a pessimistic perspective, a dark/a negative lens.

Yes, we are still living in the world—the world that hated and killed Jesus, the very world that loves evil and hates good. This world hates Jesus and if you are his, hates you as well.

However, Jesus called us to see the world through his eyes, through his experiences. He invites us to see life through him. The world is not something that we must avoid; we must turn away. No, the world is the place where we are sent… where we are missioned. Jesus said: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”

Through Jesus’ eyes, we recognize that this world is not only a sinful world but a wounded world. It needs to be healed. Through Jesus’ eyes, we realize that this world is not only a divided and intolerant world but a suffering world. It needs to be reconciled. It needs to be consoled.

We might see darkness in our world. Instead of running away from this world to hide ourselves in our comfort zones, we are invited to follow Christ to be the light that “shines in the darkness.” In a dark world, our hearts are rejoiced when we see light because in darkness even a tiny light can help us to overcome fears. It can bring hope.

How can we become a light for Jesus in this dark world?

First, we are not suns; we are moons. The moon doesn’t generate light on its own. It merely reflects the sun. We shine with a reflected light, which is Christ’s light. His light is the primary, the original, ours is secondary. We need to stay in the light of Jesus, and not let him be eclipsed in our lives. We receive light from Jesus’ light not generate by our own. Second, Jesus told his followers: “You are the light of the world.” The light singular not lights plural. Meaning, Jesus is talking corporately about the light singular light that we together form as we represent him. We shine together. Third, Lewis, an Irish-born, British writer and lay theologian said: “Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him.” He means that we shouldn’t focus on ourselves; our light cannot be shined for our own shake but … Christ. Our light cannot be used to glorify ourselves but to help others to see Christ.

Dear brothers! The Ignatian Year will start this Thursday all over the world. We, Jesuits, are called to “see all things new in Christ.” Like the disciples, we are not meant to live behind locked doors. But to see the world new in Christ, we need to stand up, open doors to go out, to be sent into the world to serve the people of God. Amen.