John’s Gospel has a theme of light, and this is specifically what I want to write about today. We’re in the middle of winter, a time where light is sparse and yet truly appreciated. Can you imagine seeing anything at night during the winter without some source of light? Can you believe until about 150 years ago people only had candles to bring light into dark spaces? In parts of the world, this remains true. How much more necessary is Jesus as the true Light of the World: His goodness, mercy, and perfection conquers the darkness of evil and sin. Jesus’ Light is for all people—Jesus has opened the doors of salvation to all people, if only we prefer the light! “Light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light” (Jn 3:19). What is Jesus’ light? The ways of love, true living, goodness, and forgiveness. “The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness” (1 Jn 2:9). The ability to forgive and love both our friends and enemies is something only Jesus offers the world. How joyful it is to live in the radiance of this Light—Jesus gave up His life for you and me!
When it comes to our vocation, it is so important to first live in the light of Christ. Jesus wants us to be happy, holy, and live forever with Him in heaven, a place completely full of Jesus’ light! St. John gives us some advice: “He who follows [Jesus] will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). Jesus has revealed how to be a good disciple, to live a truly upright and holy life, in cooperation with His grace. The summary of this is simply said and more difficulty lived: loving God and our neighbor as God loves us. How we live that call to love God and neighbor differs: the Church is full of people living different vocations, different calls from God to share the light of Christ with the world.
To truly receive the call to be a priest can be a scary thing. Perhaps some of you are keeping it in the darkness, keeping it to yourself. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was the instruction to share my thoughts about God possibly calling me to be a priest. You don’t have to tell everyone! But bringing to the light with someone who can truly help will make such a difference. I remember so concretely my conversation with Fr. George Seiter in the fall of my senior year of high school—it had an incredible effect. When I brought my story to the light, the light God calls us to live in that reflects His goodness, I was much more at peace. I was able to see clearly God’s presence in my life, His small and yet noticeable ways that He was further revealing how much He loved me and asking me to respond. Just as Jesus gave up His life, He calls us to give up ours. Our surrender: to take up the cross, to walk in the light of Christ, brings true joy and peace.