December 29, 2016 (Feast of St. Thomas Becket)
Fifth day of Christmas
The Light Is Shining Before It Dawns
The Responsorial Psalm insists, “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice” (Psalm 96), even when things look bad.
1John 2: 3-11 gives us a reason: “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” The darkness John has in focus is the failure to love: “Whoever hates his brother is in darkness.… All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and… murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.”
This hatred is very real in our day, and it is expressed in widespread murder of the poor. Particularly distressing to Catholics is the oppression of the poor in Latin America, where though the people are Catholic, social structures are not. There military governments, supported by the United States, kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of Christians who were working — but not fighting — for justice. When the documentation on human rights abuses in Guatemala, commissioned by the national bishops’ conference, was presented by Bishop Juan Gerardi on April 24, 1998, the bishop was beaten to death by Army officers two days later.
The Church’s weapon against violence is truth: to let the facts be known. When Archbishop Thomas Becket was killed in Canterbury Cathedral by the king’s men for defending the rights of the Church, Pope Alexander III responded by swiftly canonizing him three years later. Eighteen months after that, King Henry II was required to do public penance for causing Becket’s death. By contrast, when a government agent shot Archbishop Oscar Romero to death at the altar during Mass for defending the rights of the poor in El Salvador (March 24, 1980), Pope John Paul II chose not to recognize him as a martyr, and did not call on the government to apologize for his murder. However, according to Wikipedia, in 1997, Pope John Paul II declared Romero a “Servant of God,” which opened the way for his beatification and canonization. The cause was blocked, but was reopened by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. Pope Francis declared Romero a martyr on 3 February 2015, and celebrated his beatification May 23, 2015. Eventually, truth triumphs.
In Luke 2: 22-35 Simeon proclaimed, “My own eyes have seen the salvation” promised by God: “a light to the nations, and the glory of your people.” But he goes on the tell Mary that Jesus is a light many will “contradict” and reject. And Mary’s own heart will be pierced with sorrow like a sword. So when we say, “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice,” we are not being simplistic. We know there is still struggle and pain ahead of us. Nevertheless, in Jesus-Emmanuel, we have “God with us” already. “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” We simply need to let it shine in us.
Initiative: If you want to know Jesus, seek him where he can be found. Look for his light even where everything seems dark. Search for a glimmer of love.