We greet you in the name of our Lord Christ Jesus.
May the light of the Holy Spirit of our Lord, the Lord of love, mercy, and compassion shine upon all of us and may He grant us the knowledge, patience and wisdom to understand the richness of His teachings and missions which are intended to nurture our hearts and our lives.
Last week in our diocese we begin a year long celebration of the bicentennial of our founding. The history of Catholicism in Virginia has been one of struggle, triumphs, failings, and persistence. But Catholicism has remained a light in this State unique to its growing pains as a minority in a place hostile to our beliefs. Epiphany, is a creation of that unique history and we have from the beginning tried to promote in our parish life what is the theme of the diocesan bicentennial jubilee, “Shine like Stars in the world” (Ph 2:15).
The theme of light is a familiar and potent image chosen to illustrate and focus our attention throughout this bicentennial year. The themes and readings you heard then and this week also remember the importance of being a light in the world which dispels the darkness.
“The “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” in the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday or Ordinary time speaks to Jesus’ beginning His public ministry in the lands that were once devastated by the Assyrian conquest seven centuries before. He begins in that place because they are dark but humble backwater lands far from the lights of Jerusalem. By the Sea of Galilee, He calls Peter and Andrew and James and John to be fishes of men (and women). They will be the one who bring in people to Jesus’ kingdom of light. Darkness is a place of fear but light changes everything.
The Apostles left their boats and changed everything and the early Christian communities they began changed those places where they grew and prayed. Last week we heard St. Luke tell us that they came together in communities and shared their possessions and their talents in common. Daily they prayed and celebrated the Eucharist. They had joy in their hearts and enjoyed favor with all the people. That latter idea means that their witness to others was a positive influence. Such a favorable witness allows people to see your spiritual life and hopefully want what you have. That is the essence of evangelization. The passage ends; “the Lord added to their number.’ So, this worldly witness (evangelization) must have worked very well because light changes everything.
As a Church of fishers of men and women, we bring light in many ways to Chesterfield, Midlothian, Richmond. We love and pray for a world that is troubled and broken, and we work as St. Matthew tells us to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, and shelter to the homeless.
Epiphany and the Church which is the widespread diocese of Richmond serves those in need. This past week we were home to Caritas, sheltering for a time, homeless women and their children who would otherwise be out in the cold on the street. Like most parishes, we set aside resources in our budget by which we can feed those who come to our doorstep for assistance. From the migrant ministry at Star of the Sea in Virginia Beach to the Health Wagon in far west Virginia, we pass on that light given to us by Christ just as the early Christians did.
The Magi followed a star to find the authentic light of the world. When they returned home, they had to take a different route because the light changes everything.
The people in the young Christian communities lived differently then they had before because the light changes everything.
At the end of every Mass, you hear the same message. The Mass is ended. (We are done here, now it is time get out and let the light of Christ shine by what you do and say), because the light changes everything.