January brings hope for the spring because each day gets a little longer. The Catholic Church also celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. What do both of these have in common? Light!
Pope Francis’ very first encyclical was called Lumen Fidei – The Light of Faith. In the letter, Pope Francis communicates that faith is illuminating. Faith is a light that shines on all aspects of our lives. In the Gospel of John 8:12, John writes, “Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” Pope Francis lets us know that Jesus is the light of faith.
I remember my brother Robb and I visiting my Uncle Mike when we were children. It was just before Halloween and Uncle Mike thought it would be great to watch scary movies with a 7- and 8-year-old. Riveted by “Jaws” and “Friday the 13th,” we hid our faces at the yucky parts and jumped out of our seats when bad guys came on screen. After the movie, my uncle did not realize that Robb would become scared of the dark. Robb no longer could rely on darkness to protect him and from that time on he slept with the light on in his room.
Why do I mention this? Well, I am sure many of us had a challenging time seeing the “light” in the past year. Pope Francis points to this dynamic in Lumen Fidei. He wrote: “Faith came to be associated with darkness … in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere. There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light.” It is time for us to come back to renew our love for Jesus and be transformed by His love for us and allow Him to take center stage in our lives.
One of the ways Pope Francis has called us to make the Light of Faith present and vital to our lives is through community. We have gotten out of the habit of going to Mass regularly and often our prayer life suffers as a result. It is time to get back to our communities and pray with our parish family.
Another way that Pope Francis reminds us to have the Light of Faith in our lives is to remember God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are not just part of the past. The gift of faith is not the end but the beginning of our journey with God. It should grow along the path of life. This, like everything worthwhile in life, takes work.
As a child, my brother feared the darkness, so he was drawn to the light. This January, let us look at each day getting longer and smile at the increasing daylight. Let us remember the words spoken at baptism when the priest or deacon lights the baptismal candles and says, “Receive the light of Christ.” Let all of us be optimistic as we begin this New Year because we have the Light of Faith to illuminate our way.
By Liza Roach
Visit NorwichDiocese.org/FaithSparks to read Lumen Fidei and find resources to grow in faith in 2022.