Let your light shine

A true Christian is one whose path you can follow by the light
he or she leaves burning through affirmation, love and encouragement.

 SHOWING THE WAY TO GOD 

By Fr Chris Gleeson SJ

Let me tell you a true story. About thirty years ago, a teenager came home from school very upset, ran upstairs and slammed his bedroom door. His mother followed him up there and, sitting down on the bed beside him, asked him what the matter was. He was really upset by now and said that he didn’t make the school basketball squad because he was too small.   

His mother was acutely aware that, whatever she said to the boy then could mean the difference between success and failure for him. After pausing and thinking briefly, she said: “Son, you can never be too small. It’s not the size of the person in the game that matters, but the size of the game in the person.”  

The next morning his mother heard the alarm clock go off at 4.30 am and the sound of her son going downstairs and out into the yard to start practising. From that time on he practised every morning and evening, no matter what the weather was. And as he practised, he kept repeating to himself: “It is not the size of the player in the game that counts, but the size of the game in the player.”  

Of course, when the basketball trials came round again he played with such focus and skill that he made the team that year and for every year after that. He went on to become one of the great athletes in the 1980s and 1990s, and I am referring, of course, to the champion NBA basketballer, Michael Jordan. 

The size of the game in the person. In other words, it is not the size of our body that counts, but the size of our heart. And all the seven saints whom we are celebrating today were people of great heart, great spirit, great courage. They were all passionate people, on fire with love for God and wanting to spread the good news about God’s boundless love for each one of us. 

What about these relics that we have in our school today and soon to be part of the altar in the new school Chapel? If we think of someone very important to us who dies, we probably want something that was important to them to remind us of who they were. And when we go off to places, we buy souvenirs. Well, the relics are a way of feeling we’re in their presence and we pray that we will have something of their spirit, their fire, their passion for God.  

In 2012, a relic of St Francis Xavier was brought out from Rome to Australia, and one of our New Zealand Jesuits, Fr Richard Shortall, was chosen to accompany it around the country. For nearly four months, he travelled with the arm of St. Francis Xavier in a special container made of Australian timbers – a journey of some 15,000 kilometres, visiting 55 parishes and 25 schools across the country. During those many weeks, Richard was in a new place and bed every few days, travelling by hearse and plane, but he wrote that he “grew to admire Francis Xavier more and more, and to experience feelings of deep affection for him which had never been a part of his life as a Jesuit” before.  

The Gospel today challenges all of us to be a light to our world – just like the seven saints we are celebrating. There is too much darkness in our beautiful but troubled world today. In the time before there were electric lights on our city streets, a person would have the responsibility of being the lamplighter, lighting the gas lamps at dusk and extinguishing them before dawn. As he went down one street and up another, people would watch him doing his work. They would watch him until the sun went down and they could not see him anymore. But they could see new light come forth.   

This is for me a wonderful image of what a Christian life is all about and what lies behind this challenge for all of us. Those who are Christians continue to light new lights and we can follow their path by the lights they have left behind. They become for us a light in the darkness. A true Christian, therefore, is one whose track you can follow by the light he or she leaves burning. In all the darkness of our world, we need to remember that we are meant to be a light of hope in our world. The way we care for other people, the way we affirm and encourage them, is our way of being a lamplighter.   

Each time you light a candle, you might remember your role as a lamplighter and the beautiful prayer, which is found in an English cathedral: 

Lighting a candle is a prayer;  
When we have gone it stays alight  
Kindling in the hearts and minds  
Of others the prayers  
We have already offered for them  
and for others  
For the sad, the sick, and the suffering  
and prayers of thankfulness too.  
Lighting a candle is a parable;  
Burning itself out, 
It gives light to others.  
Christ gave himself for others.  
He calls us to give ourselves.  
Lighting a candle is a symbol;  
Of love and hope,  
Of light and warmth.  
Our world needs them all. 

 

Fr Chris Gleeson gave this homily at the Veneration of Relics Mass at St Ignatius of Loyola College in Auckland, New Zealand on May 16.  

His role in the foundation of the College, which welcomed its first students this year, was chronicled on this website in the following articles: The power of community spirit and commitment by Beth McConnell; and A long faith journey by John Mills. 

Banner image by Olayola, Canva.

To enquire about becoming a Jesuit in Australia, contact vocations@sjasl.org.au and for more info, visit our Vocations page.