Friday of the Third Week of Advent – Jn 5:33-36
Although today’s Gospel comes from John’s Gospel, and not from Luke, it fits well with the readings we’ve had the past two days about John the Baptist and Christ. In particular, Christ offers a beautiful description of John the Baptist, one that we can reflect on as we prepare ourselves for Christ’s birth at Christmas. He says, “John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.”
Commenting on this passage, Saint Augustine explains that a lamp is important because it sheds light, but, at the same time, it always points us to something greater: “Be it that you were left in the dark in the night-time, you directed your attention to the lamp; you admired the lamp, and exulted at its light. But that lamp says that there is a sun, in which you ought to exult; and though it burns in the night, it bids you to be looking out for the day. . . . The Lord neither says that this lamp had been unneeded, [but nor does] He say that you ought to stay at the lamp. . . .”
In other words, Augustine says that the preaching and example of John were necessary: the people “dwelt in darkness,” and John was the first ray of light to be had. However, his light pointed to something greater, the Son, who is the fullness of light and life. This “giving an example,” while “pointing to something greater,” pertains to all of us Catholics and especially to us religious. Indeed, Augustine applies this lamp image to everyone, including us, by saying, “All men are lamps, since they can be both lighted and extinguished. Moreover, when the lamps are wise, they shine and glow with the Spirit; yet also, if they did burn and are put out, they even stink. The servants of God remain good lamps by the oil of His mercy, not by their own strength. The free grace of God, truly, is the oil of the lamps. . . . [A]postles also, I say, are lamps; they give thanks because they were both lighted by the light of truth, and are burning with the spirit of charity, and supplied with the oil of God’s grace. If they were not lamps, the Lord would not say to them, ‘You are the light of the world.’”
Good lamps, then, “are lighted by the light of truth, burn with the spirit of charity, and are supplied with the oil of grace and mercy.” By their good example, they enlighten a dark world, and point others to the Light Himself.
During the World Youth Day in Toronto, Pope Saint John Paul the Second gave the following advice on how to be children of light, and we can certainly apply this to our own lives: “Dear young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ, and spread that light wherever you are. ‘The light of the countenance of Jesus – says the Catechism of the Catholic Church – illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all’ (No. 2715).
If your friendship with Christ, your knowledge of his mystery, your giving of yourselves to him, are genuine and deep, you will be ‘children of the light,’ and you will become ‘the light of the world.’ For this reason I repeat to you the Gospel words: ‘Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 5:16).
Christ is the light of the nations. He died and rose again in order to give back to those who journey through time the hope of eternity. Nothing human is hurt by the Gospel: every authentic value, in whatever culture it appears, is accepted and raised up by Christ. Knowing this, Christians cannot fail to feel in their hearts the pride and responsibility of their call to be witnesses to the light of the Gospel. Precisely for this reason I say to you this evening: let the light of Christ shine in your lives!” (Downsview Address, 5)
Today and through the rest of Advent, as we prepare for Christ’s birth, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Light, for the grace to let Christ’s light shine in our hearts, so that we can cast out the darkness of sin and lead others to the fullness of light.