“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” We come from the darkness of death and the sin of Adam and Eve. Through Baptism we are called into the light of Christ. It is the love and mercy of God overwhelming the sin of Adam and Eve. We are a little over half way in our Lenten journey and our readings have shifted. They reflect our continual call to conversion and discipleship. A call that seeks our response to that ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us. A response that begins with our Baptism and leads to an ever deepening relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. A journey to salvation – not just salvation in heaven, but salvation here on earth as well – as Jesus saves us from the darkness of Satan’s evil ways. It is Christ who is our hope and our light!

This is the call of our Baptism and Confirmation. In Baptism, Christ claims us as His very own. Our soul is marked by Him and He says to Satan, “stay back, this one belongs to me!” In Confirmation, we claim Christ as our very own. He anoints us with the Holy Spirit to walk with us and give us the strength and courage to say to Satan, “stay back, I belong to Christ!” And in so doing, we commit to a life led by Christ and filled by Christ. Through the Eucharist he feeds us and nourishes us with his very self – his flesh and blood, soul and divinity! He gives us strength to respond to and embrace his overwhelming love for us.

St. Paul tells us to walk away from the darkness, to not be associated with it, and to live only in the light. He reminds each of us of who and what we are supposed to be. If Christ isn’t the very center of our lives – if He isn’t in every decision we make – if He isn’t in every waking thought we have – if He isn’t the very essence and reason for our living, the one true and complete love of our lives – then we have work to do!  In Lent, we are challenged to confront the darkness in our lives – and change!  To be transformed!  We are challenged through our words AND our actions to be children of the light. We are challenged to reach out to others – particularly those who are less fortunate – and be as Christ to them.

It is more than just accepting Christ. It is more than just believing in Christ. It is about becoming a reflection of Christ through our very actions. Our readings call us past our blindness – the blindness of our prejudices and judgments – to see as God sees and to act as God acts. As the Lord said to Samuel, “man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.” “We are called to look into the heart – ours and others. At a time when intolerance seems to be rising by the day, our Baptism calls us to come out of such darkness to live as “children of light…producing goodness and righteousness and truth.”  Christ is our light and our hope. He calls each of us as well to be His light, lifting one another out of the darkness. He calls us to take off our blinders of pride, self-righteousness, and intolerance replacing them with the humility and mercy of Christ Jesus.

In his exhortation, The Gospel of Joy, Pope Francis calls on us to help others to see our joy in Jesus Christ. It is not enough for us to call ourselves Christians. We have to bring Jesus Christ to others. Pope Francis tells us, “Just as Jesus healed a man who was blind, we must lead others out of darkness into the Light of Christ.”  He summons us to share our joy – and proclaim it with our lives to those who are searching:  I was lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I see.

As Vincentians, now more than ever, our neighbors in need find comfort in our presence in their lives. We offer the hope of Christ. Many who have not faced challenges before may now find themselves confronted with new circumstances. Through our prayers and our presence, we make apparent through our ministry, the light and hope of Christ. We may be the only light present in their lives at this point. We must trust in the guidance and protection of Christ to inform our ministry for our neighbors and ourselves. How do I make myself available to others to be the presence of Christ in their time of need?  Am I willing overcome my fears, and find ways to meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable?

Lord Jesus, help me to see your light and goodness through the darkness. Give me the courage to find ways to minister to others, overcoming all obstacles. Allow me to place my trust in your guidance for my ministry. Help me to be the light and presence that others might find your hope in their lives as well. We pray all of this in your name. Amen

Deacon Mike