When I was five years old, I was placed in Mrs Newman’s class. I felt nothing but safe with her. I had a secret that none of the other children knew about, nor any of the teachers. Dad was alcoholic and I was often told, ‘Don’t tell anyone what happened last night.’ Mum was terrified that I might blurt out about dad’s drunkenness. So, I was anxious and shy as a result of the tension at home. I thought it was all my fault and that I was bad. That was why Dad drank and at times was so angry. It was all because of me.
Mrs Newman sensed my anxiety and pain and told me often that God loved me and had always wanted me from the very beginning of creation. My nana would regularly do the same. My mum would tell me how wonderful I was, despite her own difficulties. However, I still thought it was my fault and it was only by grace that I learned in time how extraordinary each human being is and how precious we are and that this was true for me as well.
The beginning of Matthew’s Gospel quotes Isaiah’s prophesy about the light for those who walk in darkness. It is in the ordinariness of life and through the likes of Mrs Newman, Nana and Mum that the light shines. Through our baptism we are to share the light in our ministry of healing to those around us. If you and I, who are the body of Christ, don’t respond to those who need the light of Christ, then who will? If you and I don’t stretch out our hands with compassion and understanding, then who will? If we’re not prepared to give people reasons for living and hoping, then who will?
Pope Francis is constantly calling us to be that light in the darkness. He says, ‘It is true that going out on to the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. but if the Church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out on to the streets and a sick, withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first one.’
You and I are called to be the healing, loving, transforming presence of Christ in the world. We are invited to get our hands dirty, to be in those places and with those people that Jesus would have been with, to let the light shine through us into the lives of others. This is demanding and it is challenging but it is our call and to not do it is to sell short our Baptismal calling so let’s pray for the courage to be fearless proclaimers of the Gospel.