“You are the light of the World.”

Published on 03 Feb 2017

Sometimes, you only find out what you have when you meet someone who hasn’t got it.

When I was working in South America, I had a friend who worked in the electricity company. It’s called ‘Guyana Power and Light’. And he was in charge of what they called the “Rural Electrification Project”. That meant that it was his job to bring power and light to villages which had never had it before. He told me that it was the best job he had ever done.

Wherever he went, he was met by delighted, happy people who, for the first time, had the opportunity to make use of all the advantages of electrical power - light so that they can have more hours in their day; power so that they can use electrical appliances to improve their lives.

Suddenly, people whose lives had been governed by the light of the sun had the chance to extend their day. People who had never heard a radio now knew what was happening outside their own village. People who have never had so many of the things that we take for granted had their horizons expanded. People sometimes wonder if introducing the so-called benefits of “civilisation” to ancient communities is really doing them a favour. But the people themselves had no doubts. They were delighted at their chance to come out of the darkness into the light.

His story reminded me of a young woman who I was asked to give counselling to, even though she was not a Christian. She had made some serious mistakes in her life and was tremendously burdened by guilt. I suggested that there must be some way in her own religion that she could seek the forgiveness of the God in whom she believed. She told me ‘No’.

I simply could not believe this, so I went and sought advice from a senior minister of that religion. And he confirmed it: for them, there are certain things which – once you have done them – can never, ever, ever be forgiven. And so that woman lived her whole life – damned in her own eyes and in her own religion. I have met many people who carry great burdens and immense sufferings – that is my job. But never in my whole life have I met someone for whom I felt more sorry.

For those of us for whom electric light and power is part of the ordinary fabric of our lives, it comes as a surprise that there are people who are unable to take that gift for granted. For those of us who live confident in the unconditional love of God, it comes as a deep shock that there are people who are unable to take that gift for granted.

And it reminds us that we too have a gift - a light and a power - that we are often tempted to take for granted. It is important for us to remind ourselves that the light and the power we have been given is not for ourselves alone, but is ours to be shared especially with those who have not yet received it. The Lord did not light his lamp in us in order for us to hide it under a tub.

Let us pray to be part of His world electrification project.

And let us put our Faith in the Lord who is our Light.

Paul O'Reilly SJ