“God is light in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:1-10
Whenever we enter our sanctuary, we usually light a candle, or we observe others piously doing the same. But does anyone know the reason as to why we light a candle? We light candles because of the following words spoken by Christ when He said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12) When we enter our sacred temple, we are inviting, not just figuratively but literally, the light of Christ to enter into us. Think of how mighty those little flames of the candles actually are. They can bring light into a field of total darkness so that we may be able to see. On the other hand, they can also be responsible for a fire that brings down an entire house. We ourselves are called to be living candles and we have that same potential. Every person displays their own little flame, their own influence on the world. And we get to choose whether our lives continually radiate light or darkness. Everything we say and do has a positive or negative effect. Our words, thoughts, and actions can always either be hurtful or helpful. They may either lead or mislead. And as faithful Christians, we can either advance the Kingdom of God or fight against it. We are held responsible by God for that little flame we show to the world; for the influence we are sending out to others from our very own lives.
Every time we come into church and light a candle, we need to pray for ourselves because God wants all of us to shine as a candle for Him, especially in these uncertain times. He wants us to shine not dimly, but as brightly as possible; just as St. Paul writes in Corinthians, “For it is the God Who said, “Let light shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of knowledge of the glory in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). What Saint Paul says does not mean we seek to shine in the world, not so the world can see us and our good works and praise us. Rather, we are to shine so that others will realize the light comes, not from us but, from God Himself. And once they realize this, they will give glory to Him, not us.
Jesus tells us not to hide our light under a bushel basket. There are many different ways that we hide or hinder the light God has given to us. We may be overly shy, not having confidence in our God-given abilities. We may be prideful, trying to take all the attention and credit for ourselves. We may be indifferent, not truly caring enough to make sacrifices. We may have a cold, stiff heart because we harbor bitterness and resentment. We may display false humility, which causes us to act piously for selfish reasons, not pure benevolence.
In today’s epistle reading, John speaks about light and darkness, and then goes on to mention sin because darkness is an allegory for the sinful life, as light is similar with a life spent in virtue and goodness. Each and every one of us here that was baptized was illuminated by the Holy Spirit. As temples of the Holy Spirit we are all called to allow the light to shine through us. If the light within us is dim then we need to seek to cleanse our inner self: our hearts and our minds. As John says in today’s reading, “If we confess our sins, God will purify us from all unrighteousness.” The problem is not with the light source, but rather with the vessel through which the light is shining. This is what Jesus warned against when He said, “If therefore the light that is in you in darkness, how great is the darkness” (Mt.6:23). Only a cleansed vessel will let the light shine brightly. But in order for us to remain cleansed vessels, we must be able to identify our sins and confess them before God.
St. Paul says, “Once you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph.5:8-10). Today during this pandemic, I guess we all are in a kind of darkness. But Christ teaches us that if there is darkness in the world, the process of making things brighter must begin with us, with you and me, and with Christ being our shining example. When Christ came into this world, he showed us and taught us how to be little flames. That the light of Christ must be magnified through my soul, my heart, my mind, my strength, my thoughts, my words, and my actions. We must become living candles of the light of Christ.
Looking to the future, however uncertain that future may be, as this pandemic continues to bring us much strife, both mentally and physically, we must act as an army of little flames, much like those we light in this very sanctuary, being filled with the light of Christ in order to light the path forward in enduring this virus. And we can find this light in our daily prayers, in our reading of scripture, in our weekly worship and fellowship with one another, and by reflecting on our sins and confessing them to God and receiving the Eucharist, which we all pray will be available to you all, sooner than later. This is where we must begin: the light shining within us, that flame lit from the Lord Himself. And once you are able to see this brightness, you’ll realize that the darkness is fleeting, temporary, nothing to be feared at all.