What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Jesus is the light that came into the world, and in him, there is no darkness at all.
All we have to do is look around us or turn on the news and see the darkness. Hatred, bigotry, division, greed, gluttony, and evil in all its forms are still ever-present in our world. But 2,018 years ago, God sent his only Son to save us from our sins—we have a route out of darkness. Why is it so hard to see his light sometimes?
If we see too much darkness in the world, perhaps we are being called to bring more light into it. We are all called to reflect his light to others. By praying and meditating on his Word, we fill ourselves up with his light. But faith without works is dead, so we have to carry that light to others in tangible ways.
Individually, we may not be able to change the disturbing events and situations that we see in our news feeds or when we turn on our television sets. But we do have the power to bring more love into the world by loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. What this means individually for all of us is different, but casting more light out into the world by loving our neighbor as ourselves is what we are supposed to do.
Matthew 25:35 gives us some concrete ways we can do this. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” If we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit those in prison, we are carrying the light of Christ to those most in need and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
By doing these things, we are also showing our love to Christ himself. In the Bible, people wondered how this could be. “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ … Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt 25:37-40).
In this new year, I plan to focus more on loving my neighbor in concrete ways by doing corporal works of mercy. There is a large homeless population near where I live, and a warming center where many of them go to get in out of the cold. I spent some time there on Christmas Eve and gathered a small list based on people’s needs. Later I returned with some hats and gloves for a few of them. And for a five-year-old boy staying there with his mother, I bought boots and some toy race cars.
I like to think that I carried more than material gifts to the people in the warming center that day. I hope that they felt the love of Christ shining through me, because that is what I was really trying to give them. In the new year, I hope to continue shining the light of Christ to those who need it the most.
St. Pope John Paul II said it best: “Christ came to bring joy; joy to children, joy to parents, joy to families and to friends, joy to workers, and to scholars, joy to the sick and elderly, joy to all humanity. In a true sense, joy is the keynote message and the recurring motif of the Gospels … Be messengers of joy.”
So in this new year, I hope to be a messenger of joy.