Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time at sea knows how comforting is the light of a lighthouse.
Despite all of the modern technical navigational instruments available, if you're out in a storm, or if it's a dark or foggy night, there's nothing quite so comforting as seeing that light from somewhere on the shore. The wonderful thing about a lighthouse is that its light is for everybody. It doesn't matter what nation you're from, your color or your background, what language you speak. If you're at sea, particularly if you're lost, that light is for you. Each lighthouse has its own specific "character," as it is technically called. For example, its light flashes at specific intervals and in different ways from other lighthouses. As a result, if you know the character of the lighthouse, you know exactly where you are....
The Church is more than a lighthouse; it's the living, breathing, dynamic Body of Christ. The light of truth doesn't come from the Church, it comes through the Church. It is Christ who enlightens the Church with the Holy Spirit. It is Christ who speaks to us through Church teaching. It is Christ who speaks to all, again regardless of who we are, what our backgrounds may be, what sins we have committed, whether we're rich or poor. Christ is speaking to each of us, is calling each of us safely in out of the darkness, in out of the storm. It's the character of the Church that serves as the living lighthouse. It is open to all. It preaches the same truth to all. It sheds the same light on all. We are sinners, many of us lost in the darkness, many of us suffering, many of us poor, many of us imprisoned by sin or by other problems. Christ comes for all of us, and the fullness of Revelation is in him….
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as you know, is the Lighthouse of Pharos on an island near Alexandria, Egypt. It was truly a wonder of the ancient world because it was five hundred feet high and its light radiated for forty-two miles. It was phenomenal! How many lives it saved. But the light of a lighthouse is in no way comparable to the Light who is Christ, radiating through his Church, making possible every day your salvation and mine.
John Cardinal O'Connor. "Protected, Guarded, and Consecrated in Truth" from A Moment of Grace on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (San Francisco, CA; Ignatius Press, 2014).
Used with permission.
John Cardinal O'Connor († 2000) was the Archbishop of New York, a former Navy chaplain, and the founder of the Sisters of Life.Copyright © 2014 Ignatius Press
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