24 September 2007 Monday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 8, 16-18 The light on a lampstand
The need for light is basic and fundamental. Life is dependent on light. Before electricity, people relied on gas, oil and candles for artificial light especially in the evenings. I still remember Petromax, the paraffin pressure lamp invented by Max Graetz. You have to preheat it with alcohol. Then use a hand pump to pressurize the paraffin in a closed tank. In vapor form, paraffin is mixed with air and blown into the mantle to burn. In the ‘70s, we used Petromax in the evenings before electricity was introduced in our town.
Scriptures are filled with the image of light. Genesis tells us of the beginning and the first day: “The earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw how good the light was.” The very first action of God is creating light.
In the New Testament, light was also a key image. John the evangelist refers to Jesus Christ as the light himself. And Jesus used the imagery to teach his disciples that they should shine like as lights on the hilltops or as Luke says in the Gospel today, as lighted lamps on a lamp stand.
At the lighting of the candles in baptism, all the parents and godparents take the light from the Paschal Candle. The Paschal Candle symbolizes Christ. All parents, godparents and the baptized thus share in the light of Christ. Moreover, they are entrusted to keep the light of Christ burning in their lives, and to use that light to guide them in forming the child in the faith and in the building of a community of witnesses of Jesus, our light.
There is an old Catholic custom to remind us to keep Christ in our hearts day in and day out: when you light a candle or switch on an electricity light, we pray, “Jesus is the Light of the World, a light which never knows darkness.”