Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"The light shines"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Dec. 21, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

The festive spirit before Christmas is always accompanied by lots of lights. The lights are everywhere: inside of homes, outside of homes, streets, stores and store windows, neighborhoods, even houses on farms. There are lighted images along I-90 west of Moses Lake, as farmers put up outlines of scenes, many of them Christmas-related.

The light of a candle in our Churches has special significance. Then, of course, we have the Paschal candle representing the light of Christ.

The Advent readings are filled with beautiful images of Godís saving power unfolding in our lives and in our world. The high mountains will be leveled. The age-old gorges will be filled. The rough ways will be made smooth; the crooked ways, straight. The cow and the bear will be neighbors. In the land of gloom, a light has shone.

When we remember that these images are symbolic of the human condition, we donít have to go far to see where the deep valleys and high mountains are. Or the crooked lines or rough ways. These images apply to our hearts, to our relationship in marriage and families, to those in ministry, to our Church, to our communities, to our nation and world.

Perhaps the hardest part is to recognize or realize what needs to be lowered or filled in, what needs to be straightened out or made smooth. Sometimes all of this can slip into a kind of gloom from which it is difficult to see a lot of hope Ė or, as Isaiah says, light. The chasms in relationships can sometimes seem impossible to fill or bridge. Yet Jesus came at a time when those realities were just as present as they are today. People responded. Many saw the light and responded in faith and in humility. He was the Light, the Savior of the world.

The Feast of Christmas is a powerful light in our lives. That power brings people to Church like no other time of the year (except, perhaps, Easter). Children are fascinated by the crib scenes and readily grasp Who came, and why. The vulnerability and the helplessness of the babe in the manger should be a powerful sign to all of us when we feel vulnerable and helpless. After all, God is in charge of our lives. As much as we want to be in control and manage things so that they turn out the way we would like, we really are ultimately very dependent upon our God. He is the Light of our lives and our world. Not only that, he expects every one of us to be a light in return.

Our communities are filled with Christmas lights this time of year. We enjoy them and the creativity of so many, who invest so much of themselves to make the arrangements as beautiful as they can. But mechanical lights are one thing. Human lights are another, and in a sense, are far more powerful and transformational.

Some time ago, I came across this comment: that Christmas time is a moment of reality in a year of illusion. Jesus comes, and he is the Savior of the world. He is the one who will do the leveling and filling in, who will make crooked lines straight. We participate in that work as disciples of Jesus, as servants, as instruments. Light, a beacon, a guiding star, a peacemaker, a reconciler, a forgiver, an ambassador for Jesus, as St. Paul reminds us: all of these are images that should grab us, especially at this time of Christmas celebration. As Christmas lights fill the world this season, so should the light of each of us and all of us together as we reflect the presence of Jesus, bright and undimming. The saving presence of Jesus is needed now more than ever. We live in a world in which this moment is truly a watershed moment, when the window of opportunity to recognize the bright light of a loving Savior and Redeemer in our midst can be recognized and appreciated.

A few weeks ago, before Pope Benedict XVI made his brief trip to Turkey, a radio commentator made the statement, ďMaybe this is the last chance for the clouds of darkness between East and West to be dispelled.Ē Even though some gloom was expected about the trip, the light of the Holy Fatherís example was powerful and moving.

May this Christmas inspire us to go and do in like manner in our lives. May our lights together, energized by the light of Christ, burn ever more brightly in a world that awaits the Savior.

I extend to all of you and your families prayerful best wishes for a blessed and joyful Christmas. And please, let your light shine!

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