By Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S.
On this Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday, we hear from John the Baptist, a very important figure in our Advent journey. The Gospel begins, “There was a man sent by God to give testimony to the Light” (John 1:6). John the Baptist is an important role model for us because like John, we are to lead others to rejoice in the Light of Christ. John recognized that he was NOT the Light but that his job was to point to the Light, to give testimony to the truth of Christ among us.
Do you recall the name, Robert Fulghum? He is probably best known for a book he wrote a number of years ago, All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Fulghum tells the story about a seminar he attended on Greek culture that was led by the Greek philosopher, teacher and politician Alexander Papaderos. At the end of the two-week session, led by scholars, experts and intellectuals, Papaderos himself closed the last meeting by asking the usual, “Are there any questions?” For a moment there was silence. Then, Fulghum asked, “Dr. Papaderos, What is the meaning of life?”
Laughter filled the room and people stirred to go home. Papaderos raised his hand. There was silence. Looking intensely at Fulghum, he said, “I will answer your question.” Taking his wallet out of his pocket, he retrieved a mirror the size of a quarter. He told how, as a young boy, he had found the small fragment of mirror on the road where a German army motorcycle had been wrecked. The mirror became a new toy. He was fascinated by the ability to reflect light into the darkest places.
Papaderos then said, “As I grew older I learned that reflecting light is not just a child’s game. It is a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light, or the source of the light, but I can reflect the light. The light which we know–faith, truth, understanding, knowledge—is always there, but it will not shine into the darkest places unless I reflect it. I have come to understand this as the meaning of life.” With that bold statement, Papaderos took his mirror and redirected the light of the sun onto the faces of each participant at the seminar.
This is the truth that John the Baptist lived by as he gave witness to Jesus, the true Light of the World. John said that he was not the Light, but that he came to testify to the Light. At the time of our baptism, each of us received the Light of Christ and the mission to reflect his Light through the witness of our lives.
In Advent, we proclaim the truth of Emmanuel—God with us! The joy of the Lord can be found each time we profess our belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We are given a gift that many have longed to receive. Indeed, today we must proclaim with the witness of our lives that God is the joy of our soul. Even in the face of suffering we have hope and joy because God gives himself to us, fulfilling his covenant of love. As St. Paul reminds us, “The One who calls you is faithful, and He will accomplish it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
You and I are not the Light, nor are we the source of the Light, but we can, and we must reflect the Light of Christ within our households, at our places of work and play, to a world grown worn and weary. Your generous heart, your hospitality to the stranger, the smile you wear, the enthusiasm you radiate, the hope you inspire, the faith you profess, the forgiveness you share, the kindness you practice all help reflect the Light of Christ to others and that is what it means to rejoice in the Lord!
Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S., is the pastor of the Downtown Dayton parishes, which include Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph. He also serves as the vice moderator general of the worldwide Congregation.