ColumnsNaming Grace

Light to the nations

 Shortly after my mother died, I received a beautiful note from a woman who grew up down the street saying that as a child she had found refuge in our home because of my mother’s warmth and welcome—her sharing of Jesus’ love. I always assumed this childhood friend simply enjoyed playing jacks, but it turns out our home was a light to the neighborhood.

In this Sunday’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah predicts, “a light to the nations.” In the Gospel, John the Baptist reveals this saving light—Jesus. God’s plan of salvation extends from the Jewish race to all peoples—all nations. The Second Vatican Council document “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,” translating into “Light of the Nations,” reminds us the church exists “to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the church” (n.1).

According to “Lumen Gentium,” Christ’s light also shines through the Christian family as a “domestic church,” the church in the miniature—the church of the home. In the domestic church, members are washed clean through tears of forgiveness and reconciliation, nourished by good food and rich conversation, and anointed through bedtime blessing. As the domestic church, “the family is called to join in daily prayer, to read the word of God and to share in Eucharistic communion, and thus grow in love and become ever more fully a temple in which the Spirit dwells” (“The Joy of Love,” Pope Francis, n. 29).

Perhaps the domestic church shines most radiantly as a “contrast society” (“Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for Evangelization,” Scott Hahn). In a world of violence, alienation, consumerism and depression, the domestic church can offer a contrast of life, inclusion, intimacy, peace, simplicity and joy. In a society where families are pulled apart by demanding work schedules, relentless activity and endless entertainment, or ripped apart by selfishness or addiction, the domestic church testifies to a new way of living—a better way of loving as self-gift.

No domestic church is perfect, yet the Christian family ideally responds to difficulties with prayer, mercy, tenderness and hope. We are reminded, “a family is holy not because it is perfect but because God’s grace is working in it” (“Follow the Way of Love,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Parents/grandparents name God’s strengthening presence—grace—when helping a tired mother, God’s healing presence when comforting a sick grandfather, God’s consoling presence when listening to a depressed sibling and God’s welcoming presence when inviting a lonely neighborhood child to play. Through good times and bad, Christ’s light prevails in the domestic church and others comment, “See how they love one another.”

Our world is in deep need of Christ’s vision, and as the great preacher, Martin Luther King Jr., proclaimed, “I have a dream!” God has a dream for the church to lead all of humanity to Christ—to a world of peace, justice, joy. God has a dream for each family to shine brightly as the domestic church, transforming each neighborhood—one porch light at a time! Now, that’s good news!

How will your family live more intentionally as a domestic church?

How will you reach out to those in your neighborhood?

For more information on the domestic church: