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Bishop's Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

December 17, 2023

[St. Philomena Church, Honolulu; St. Elizabeth Church, Aiea]

Don’t you love all the lights you see at Christmas time?  Trees are lit, houses are aglow, city streets are decorated with festive lights.  There are clear lights and colored lights, steady lights and flashing lights, bright lights and dim lights.  They all bring us joy in this time of the year when the darkness of night is longest.  And then there is New Year’s Eve!  In the dark of midnight, the sky is filled with flashes of brightly colored and festive lights that bring us a joyful hope for many blessings in the coming year.  I can testify to the power of light to bring joy!

“A man named John was sent from God.  He came for testimony, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.”  Of course, we know that the light is Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, the fulfillment of God’s promise to King David to set his descendent upon a throne from which he would rule forever.  He is the longed-for Messiah, and he brings light in the darkness.  He brings glad tidings to the poor, heals the broken-hearted, proclaims liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.  He announces a time of favor from the Lord.

We hear about John the Baptist, who was clear that he was only a humble stagehand in the drama that God would unfold for his beloved people by sending us Jesus, so that we, too, can testify to the light.  In a world that is filled with the darkness of war, racial hatred, dehumanizing poverty, abuse and bullying, and constant conflict and suspicion, there is a need for light to illumine the darkness.  We are the ones who are sent to shine the light of Christ’s love on all we meet.

I think of our friends in Lahaina, Maui, who on one fateful night lost a hundred loved ones, hundreds of homes and businesses, jobs and treasured possessions.  One horrible light cast them into an unbelievable darkness.  There was great grief and lamentation.  There was anger and confusion, anxiety about the future, and horror about what they had experienced.  Yet in that tremendous darkness, they saw many shining lights.  The Knights of Columbus, followers of Jesus, and a young adult group named EPIC – Ever Present in Christ – shone a light of love that will never be forgotten.  Our fledgling diocesan Spiritual and Mental Health Ministry continues to open the light to those who are in such debilitating darkness.  Even disciples of Jesus who themselves had lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods, decided that they must bring the light of Jesus to that suffering community but serving their brothers and sisters and giving them hope when the taste of despair is so palpable.  They have learned the lesson of John the Baptist that their mission is not to be the light, but to open the eyes of the blind to see that light that is Jesus Christ himself.

Like John, however, we must remember that we are not the light ourselves.  We are mere bearers of the light that is Jesus.  And how do we keep that light burning with us, who are often affected ourselves by so much darkness, except by coming here to be filled with the One who is the Light of the World as we encounter him in the Eucharist.  When we leave here, we are meant to be changed so that through us Jesus can shine and bring joy to the world.  We are sent by God no less than John was sent, to testify to the light.

We shine the light of Christ on others when we recognize their pain and struggles, and while respecting them, bring them hope.  We shine the light of Christ on women experiencing difficult pregnancies when we walk with them in their need for spiritual, emotional, and materials support.  We shine the light of Christ on struggling youth when we accompany them and affirm them and show them our love.

In a few weeks, the Christmas lights will be packed away in boxes, waiting months to sparkle again and bring joy.  We, however, have the true Light with us always, so that we can go out to others with his light and, even when it may seem so absurd, rejoice always and pull all along with us to rejoice in the Light that overcomes all darkness.