Light a Candle   Leave a comment

Image Source = Matthew Bowden

The Christophers, a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to helping people discover the gifts they can use to improve the world, use as their slogan a Chinese proverb:  “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Last night, at Evening Prayer, I commemorated the lives of King Kamehameha IV (died in 1864) and Queen Emma of Hawaii (died in 1885).  They devoted themselves to good works, such as building hospital and schools, as well as encouraging missionary work (in this case, Anglican/Episcopalian).  The royals made a positive difference in the lives of their subjects.  The assigned gospel reading was Matthew 25:31-40.  The text (from the New Jerusalem Bible) follows:

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory.  32  All nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats.  33  He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.  34  Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.  35  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, 36  lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”  37  Then the upright will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  38  When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you?  39  When did we find you sick or in prison and go to see you?”  40  And the King will answer, “In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

So, the next time you think, “Somebody should do something about that,” ask yourself if you should do something about that, whatever it is.  You might be that person.  Or, someone else might be the optimum person to handle that issue, but you might be the right person to help with another issue.  Nobody can do everything, but most people can do something positive, at least for one person. Loving God is not an abstraction.  Rather, it is tangible.  The Bible (in both Testaments, regardless of how one defines the contents of the Old Testament) spends much time on helping people in need.  Engaging in this activity is an obligation, not an option.  In fact, the Bible spends more time on this topic than others that receive more attention.  One reason I fault much of organized religion is that it spends so much time arguing about gender issues or defining orthodoxy too narrowly that it becomes sidetracked from matters of carrying for orphans and widows, visiting the sick and imprisoned,  feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked.  This is a matter of the proper balance of priorities.  We show our love of God most effectively by demonstrating our love of our fellow human beings. Also, God expects much of those who have much.

For example, my congregation, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, is collecting winter clothing to send to Afghanistan, where Captain Andrew Lane, one of our parishioners, will distribute it.  An extra sweater might not seem like much to many of us, but it can mean the difference between being warm or cold for someone else on the other side of the planet.  A seemingly small act can carry great importance.

Light one candle, at least.  One of my goals is to do something positive for at least one other person each day.  This is achievable.  So, if you nothing else, strive to help at least one other human being each day.  It might not seem like much, but it matters.

“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”


NOVEMBER 30, 2009




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