The good news is that the season of Winter is half way over. The bad news is that there is still half of Winter remaining. There is a cultural event that takes place today in Eastern Pennsylvania. It’s called Groundhog Day. According to an ancient German legend, if the groundhog comes out of the ground and the sun is shining, he sees his shadow. That means there will be six more weeks of winter. If it’s a cloudy day, the groundhog can’t see his shadow and there will be an early spring. According to that rather unscientific legend, we here are going to have an early spring. We’ll see.
One thing we do know is that the Church celebrates a major feast today. It’s called the Presentation of the Lord. As we heard in the gospel, it was a Jewish law that 40 days after his birth, a first-born son was to be taken to the Temple in Jerusalem to be blessed. Today is 40 days since Christmas, the birth of Jesus.
Today is also called Candlemas, the day when candles used at Mass are blessed.
In the European University system, there are two semesters. The first is called Martinmas Semester and begins in September and ends near Christmas. The second semester begins today and is called Candlemas Semester. In between, they get 40 days of vacation.
In several ways, therefore, today is a turning point. From now until late June, every day there will be more and more sunlight. The dark days of winter are fading away.
Symbolically, this phenomenon represents the essence of the Christian message. Light – specifically the light of Christ – overcomes darkness.
When a person is baptized in the Catholic Church, they are given a candle. It reminds the child, his parents and Godparents that this child is a child of the Light. That flame of Faith given to the child is to burn brightly within for the rest of their lives.
Every human being, baptized or not, is a child of God. Every person shares the same dignity. In God’s eyes we are all equal.
When anyone forgets that truth, problems begin between people. There are some people who do not respect this truth. They forget and darkness takes over. That can be temporary – which happens often – or the darkness is so dark that horrible evils happen. That is not so often.
Every human being experiences some degree of darkness in their lives. It doesn’t last forever. The flame of Faith is not easily extinguished. We all have our good days and our bad days, that is where the children of the Light come into the equation.
While everyone experiences some form of depression, not everyone gets depressed all at the same time. There are people around us who can lighten our days. These people care about us, love us even if we forget that or they don’t always tell us. We need to believe that.
If it were not against the fire code, I would have given each one of you a blessed candle today. If all the electric lights were turned off, a thousand candles would glow with the soft light that is within each of us.
There is a great mystery of our Faith. It’s the mystery of the cross. Jesus was not only a child of God when he was 40 days old, he was also a child of God when he died, a grown man at 33 years old. Scripture tells us that when he died, even though it was mid-afternoon on a spring day, the skies turned dark. That was when even God shed tears of sadness.
But within three days, early in the morning when the sun had just risen, the light of Christ was so bright, not even his closest friends recognized him at first.
Each one of you is a light shining in the darkness. Never forget that. And never forget that everyone is a child of God. And if someone forgets that, bring your own light to ease the burdens of those in sadness. It makes even the most complicated mess a very simple solution. We have to help each other.
That is why today is a turning point. The cold and the wet of winter does not last forever. Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.