John 8: 11-12
I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in
but shall have the light of life.
of the World
I want to tell you a story about something
that happened to me a long time ago.
I had to take a plane trip from Boston to
New York City. I got on the plane,
and everything began to progress in the
usual way. We got clearance from the
tower, moved away from the gate, rolled
out onto the tarmac, and then stopped
moving. And we sat there, and we sat
there, and we sat there. Finally, I
looked out the window and what I saw was
absolute darkness. There wasn’t a
single light on in the airport. All
the lights had gone out. Then the
pilot came on the speaker system and told
us that not only were there no lights in
the airport, there were no lights anywhere
in the city of Boston, anywhere in the
state of Massachusetts, or anywhere in the
New England region of the United States.
It was the “Great Blackout of New
England.” That whole corner of the
United States, where sixty or seventy
million people lived, was suddenly without
light. So, I had to get off the
airplane and with great care find my way
back to the house where I had been
staying. There were no street
lights. Traffic was jammed up at
every corner. No electric trains
were working. There was very little
security protection for the people on the
streets. Elevators in skyscrapers
stopped wherever they were, most of them
between floors. People had to walk
down from the top of the highest buildings
in the world, sixty, seventy, eighty,
ninety, even one hundred floors, to get
out on the street and try to get home.
Restaurants couldn’t serve meals.
Shopping malls and movie theaters went
totally dark. People couldn’t get to
the hospitals. Mothers about to give
birth had great difficulties.
Doesn’t that sound sad? But that’s
not the worst. Wait till you hear
how sad it gets. For thirteen or
fourteen hours, that whole area of the
world was without television. How
sad! What were they going to do with
their lives? How could life be worth
living without television?
Best-selling books were written about this
great blackout. They even made a
comical movie telling the story. And
for years and years afterward, the people
of that area shared with each other their
personal experiences of where they were
when the lights went out. That’s how
powerful an impression the darkness made
People Trapped in Darkness. Now,
dear people of God, there are many people
in this world, perhaps countless millions,
who live their whole lives in darkness.
Why? Because they are living without
the light that has come into the world.
They are living without the light whose
name is Jesus Christ.
I’m not just talking about places like
Africa or China where there isn’t a strong
Christian tradition. I’m also talking
about the West. In Europe and the
Americas, the light of Jesus Christ is
fading. In Ireland, for instance,
for the first time in its history, people
are saying that young people aren’t coming
to church. And in the United States,
statistics show how relatively few come to
give God Almighty even one hour of the 168
hours he gives us every week.
We had better take notice of this fact
because we--let me rephrase that--because
you have the job of getting the light back
on. It isn’t enough to say, “Well,
we have Jesus Christ in our history.
We have Jesus Christ in our art, in our
music, in our literature.” No, we
have to get the light of Jesus Christ
shining brightly again in human hearts.
And we have to start with our own hearts.
Living without the Light. Being
without spiritual light is far worse than
being without physical light.
Without the light of Christ, we have no
protection. The devil loves the
darkness. He’s called the “Prince of
Darkness.” Without the light of
Christ he is free to kill our hope and
fill us with fear. Without the light
of Christ, we are unable to move forward,
unable to grow in holiness as God calls us
to. Without the light of Christ, we
are spiritually paralyzed, just as those
planes on the tarmac, those cars on the
streets, those trains in the city, and
those elevators in the buildings were
paralyzed without the light.
Without the light of Christ, our human
actions have no traffic lights. We
have no red light saying, “stop,” to our
selfish passions, emotions, and
self-interest. Even more
importantly, we have no green light
telling us, “go, get moving,” in
accomplishing the good works that God
created and destined for us. We have
no red light saying, “don’t do evil,” and
no green light saying, “go, produce fruit
Without the light of Christ, human beings
are engulfed in the utter darkness of
egotism and selfishness. Do you know
what the selfish person wants? He
wants the right to be the only selfish
person on earth. He doesn’t want
anybody around him to be selfish, but he
thinks that being selfish is his right.
What a sadness!
Another darkness is resentment. If
you have any resentment in your heart,
please be healed of it. It does you more
harm than the person you’re resenting.
It’s poison in your life. Bad
memories, bad relationships--this is the
darkness for so many people. Greed
is another one: wanting more than you
could ever use. Imelda Marcos was
said to have had three thousand pairs of
shoes. I calculated that if she were
a centipede, she could put on a new pair
of shoes every day for two months.
There’s also the darkness of addictions.
What a horror in our world! People
are addicted to alcohol, drugs, food.
What are they hiding from? They’re
trying to hide from the darkness, but they
only enter into it more and more deeply.
Longing for Peace. For so many
people, the darkness in their hearts makes
it impossible to say, “I have peace.
I have enough.” What a blessing
peace is! This is what
evangelization is all about. St. John
called Jesus the light that shines in the
darkness, then he went on to say that
Jesus is the light that darkness cannot
overcome (John 1:5). Jesus, and only
Jesus, can fill our lives with light.
Have you ever lived through a hurricane?
I have several times while I was in the
Caribbean. During a hurricane, it’s as if
your whole world is filled with darkness
and wind and rain. But when the
hurricane passes, it blows away with it
every cloud in the sky, and the sun comes
out again. After so much fear and
worry, the world is filled with light.
That’s the way Christ should come into our
lives, bringing us beauty, bringing us
color, bringing us goodness. Well,
like John the Baptist, each of us must be
a witness to the true light that gives
light to every man. Our job is to
turn the light on in this world so that
people can walk in light and never return
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist,
prophesied what would happen when the
Messiah came. He said that the Messiah
would shine on those who sat in darkness,
and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:79).
This isn’t the death that ends our time on
earth. It’s the death called sin,
the death called fear. This is what
you must be doing as an evangelizer.
And it’s your mistake and your sin if you
don’t get at it. Zechariah’s next
words tell us what we have to do: We
must guide people’s feet into the way of
peace. That’s what we do when we
bring light into someone’s life.
Now, if you’re in utter darkness, you
won’t see where to put your feet.
You won’t know where to walk. But the
light shows you the pathway, and Scripture
says the path takes you to peace.
How many people in the world are hunting
for, yearning for peace? All the
alcoholics, all the drug addicts, all
those mad, mad, shoppers who think
material things will give them peace.
No, the Prince of Peace gives us peace.
Jesus calls himself the Light of the
World, the Light of Life (John 8:12).
He doesn’t give light to your streets, he
puts light, color, joy, happiness, and
direction into your very life.
Live as Children of the Light. How
good Jesus is to us! This is how he
expresses his mission: “The Spirit of the
Lord has anointed me to proclaim recovery
of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18).
Who are the blind? They’re the poor
people we’re talking about, the people who
are spiritually, emotionally, and
psychologically blind. They have no
understanding of where they came from,
where they are right now, or where they
should be going. They are
emotionally paralyzed. But Jesus
said, “I have come to the world as its
light to keep anyone who believes in me
from remaining in the darkness” (John
Oh, it’s so beautiful, it’s such a
wonderful, kind thing to do. We give
it a fancy name--evangelization--but it
really means bringing sight to the blind.
What an incomparable act of love and
kindness to light the pathway of someone
who is lost in darkness! What an act
of love it is for us to proclaim with
Paul, “There was a time when you were
darkness, but now you are the light in the
Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).
It’s not that you have to go from darkness
to light. It’s more than that.
You have to go from being darkness to
being light in this world. Paul goes
on: “Well then, live as children of the
light. Awake, O sleeper! Arise from
the dead”--from the darkness of the
tomb--“and the light of Christ will shine
upon you” (Ephesians 5:8-14).
This is why we call the gospel good news.
We can walk in the light. Without
any doubt, evangelization is the supreme
Christian service of teaching the
spiritually blind to cry out like that man
in the gospel, “Lord! That I might see!”
(Mark 10:51). And so many blind will
see if they just cry out those words.
Fr. Tom Forrest, C.Ss.R
The Word Among Us