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Jesus Christ is the true light of the world

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Migration Day Mass 2014

Archbishop Thomas Wenski chats with participants in the processsional for the Migration Mass, including Galvin Decius, 16, as Regine Destin, 13, holds the other end of the Haitian flag.

Photographer: MARLENE QUARONI | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski chats with participants in the processsional for the Migration Mass, including Galvin Decius, 16, as Regine Destin, 13, holds the other end of the Haitian flag.

Homily by Archbishop Thomas Wenski at Migration Day Mass to with representatives of all nations at St. Mary Cathedral. January 5, 2014.

On today’s feast of the Epiphany when Christ is reveal to the nations in the persons of the Magi we Catholics celebrate in the United States “National Migration Week”.  Today, in this cathedral church, representatives from all the nations come to offer their homage to the Christ child born in Bethlehem. Here we see a beautiful, a magnificent expression of the Church universal. Indeed the word “Catholic” comes from the Greek word that means “universal”. The salvation that Jesus came to bring to the world is a “Catholic” – a universal – salvation. No one is to be excluded; no one is to be left out. As Jesus told his apostles on the Day of the Ascension, “Go out and bring the gospel to all the nations”. 

If Salvation is Catholic, then the Church that Jesus founded to spread the gospel must necessarily also be “Catholic”, that is universal.  The presence today of so many nationalities, so many ethnic groups from all over the Archdiocese shows that the gospel of Jesus Christ can find fertile soil in which to take root and grow in any culture.  God is to be praised and worshipped in all the languages of mankind.

The theme of this year’s Migration Week is “out of the darkness”.  Jesus Christ comes into the world as the true light of the world, a light to overcome the darkness of fear, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of hatred that spreads gloom throughout the world.  In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks words of hope to the Jewish people who at that time were just returning from exile. He says to them: “Rise up in splendor…Your light has come!  Darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the people but upon you the Lord shines.”

Of course the full realization of the import of that prophecy would come much later – centuries later, when in Bethlehem the Word of God who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mother is born. Jesus is the light that comes into the world, St. John tells us in the prologue to his gospel.  He is the light that overcomes the darkness.  And we see how different cultures celebrate Christmas as a festival of lights, for example the Filipinos have their farols and the Haitians have their fanals – and we all have our Christmas trees adorned with many lights.

These lights invite us to come “out of the darkness”, they invite us to walk in the light of Jesus Christ.  I am sure that you all heard (and used) expressions like: “In the light of what you said, I see things differently”, or “seen in that light I understand better” or, when we come to understand something that had previously perplexed us we say, “Now I see the light”.   These expressions indicate how a change in perspective can change the way we see and understand things.  But these expressions also indicate not just “seeing” but “seeing and changing one’s outlook, changing one’s attitude.

Epiphany which celebrates the Star that led the Magi to the manger is part of Christmas’ festival of lights. Epiphany calls us to see ourselves and our world in a different and a new light.  Epiphany calls us to see as God sees things, to see the way that Jesus sees.

Jesus comes into the world to bring his light to the souls of men and women of every race and every nation. And Epiphany reminds us that Jesus did not come to share his light with only the Jew but also with the Gentiles, with all the nations living in darkness and despair.  The light of the star that guided the Magi inspired hope in them.  It is that hope that we celebrate during National Migration Week – a hope desperately needed among so many of our brothers and sisters marked by the drama of migration.

Today, because of the failure of Congress to enact a fair, just and comprehensive immigration reform, today, because of the Obama’s administration’s unconscionable deportation policies, policies which have separated more than 5,000 children from their parents who were arrested and deported often without being afforded time to arrange for their children’s care, the most vulnerable migrants – children and the undocumented – exist in a kind of figurative darkness.  We must bring to these migrants – as well as refugees and victims of human trafficking – the light of Christ.  We, as people walking in the light of Christ must work together to banish the darkness, the darkness of fear, the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of racism.

This past summer, Pope Francis, moved by the news of the deaths of African boat people, went to the small Italian island of Lampedusa to pray for the dead and to console the survivors.  Tragedies such as this do not only happen off the coast of Africa to desperate refugees hoping to reach Europe. As you know too well, they happen right here near our shores.  As we witness just a few weeks ago Haitians and Cubans continue to die in desperate attempts to seek what they cannot find in their own homelands: conditions worthy of human life.  The Pope pointed out in his homily at Lampedusa these things happen because of what he called “the globalization of indifference”.

To see the light – or to see in the light of Jesus – means that we cannot remain indifferent to our brother, to our sister.  Just as no one is excluded from God’s love, no one must be excluded from our care and concern. The Magi brought gifts to the Christ Child – gifts fit for a king; but, he gives them greater gifts: enlightenment, vision, a changed perspective.  When they return to their home, they return by a different way.

We must allow the light of Christ to shine in our lives – and through our lives. The world filled terrorism, ethnic strife and the politics of hate is called to come “Out of the darkness”. Isaiah says, “Nations will walk by your light.”  And here his words were not meant just for the people of the Old Covenant; they are also meant for us, the new People of God, the people of a New Covenant sealed in the Blood of Jesus Christ.
May this multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual celebration be a witness that the world has nothing to fear from diversity – for diversity of languages, cultures and races enriches the human family, it does not divide it – only sin divides us; but, Christ comes to save us from sin. Redeemed by Christ and walking in his light, may we reflect what a reconciled world can look like.

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