Have you been outside any of the evenings of this past week? Did you notice the stars? We had a few good, clear nights for stargazing, and even if you are not an avid astronomer, there were some things that you really couldn’t miss if you looked. As a new lunar cycle started, the sliver of a crescent moon was a beautiful addition to the post-sunset sky. However, along with that, you could also see two other beauties in the western heavens: Mars and, brilliantly, Venus. In fact, all week and through next week, we will be able to watch as Venus and Mars shine for us. Mars will slowly dim, and Venus will actually brighten; astronomers say that it will be 200 times brighter than Mars by February 17.
I have a telescope, and from time to time I like to take it out into the driveway and look at various objects in the night sky. As I said, to see Venus no telescope is necessary; it’s just there, in all her bright beauty. Yes, there are many other stars up there (“billions and billions,” according to Carl Segan), but when one shines out this powerfully, you just can’t miss it.
We hear about shining light today from Jesus. “You are the light of the world,” He says, and “your light must shine before others.” It’s not a question for Jesus; He doesn’t say, as we sometime paraphrase, “Let your light shine,” or “May it shine.” Rather, He places some urgency on us: “Your light must shine…” Rather than being simply “a” light, the Lord refers us to as “the” light – in which case, the world is relying on us to shine.
When I look up in the sky at night, I know that there many other lights to see; however, because of its brilliance, Venus steals the show. Why? That’s the effect of being brilliant. Other little stars may twinkle, but this one shines brightly. We are not called to be simply bright, but to be brilliant.
In a world full of complainers, we are called to be a voice of encouragement.
In a world full of anger and division, we are called to be a voice of peace.
In a world full of so many false lights, we are called to show forth the Light of Christ.
Astronomers will tell us that stars will twinkle, but planets do not. Like the moon, the planets do not have any light of their own to show us. Instead, their brilliance is related to how well they reflect the light of the sun to us here below. As these heavenly bodies move through space, relative to the sun and our earth, they appear to shine brighter and brigher. Over the next couple weeks, Venus will begin to be oriented more and more directly toward the sun, and it will brighten for us.
In the same way, you and I do not have any light of our own to show others. Rather, the light we share is the very light of Jesus was given to us at our Baptism. We were handed a little candle, lit from the Paschal Candle, and we were told, “Receive the Light of Christ. This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly.” Therefore, the only way that we can shine brilliantly depends on how well we are reflecting the light of the Son. The more we turn toward Jesus, the more perfectly we can show others His light. St. Paul knew this, such that as he spent time with his various communities he didn't rely on his own "wisdom;" instead, he "resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
And the more perfectly we show others His light, the more others will see Him. It’s a question we should always be asking ourselves: how well am I reflecting Jesus to others? Perhaps, in these days as we look up at beautiful Venus in the sky, we can ask ourselves as a simple evening prayer.
As we let that light of ours shine brightly, we know that others will notice us – more so than the paler lights of this world – and in seeing us, they will desire to know the Source of that light. That is what Christ means by letting our light shine brightly; and in seeing it, “they will see our good works and glorify the heavenly Father.”