Torch provides a new Catholic homily each week written specially for this web site by Dominican friars, and read by followers worldwide. Read more.

The Light That Unites Us

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)  |  Fr Robert Verrill speaks of his personal discovery of the light of Christ’s truth, and he calls us to focus on Him who unites rather than divides.

When we lament about the divisions we see within the Church, it’s all too easy to say things that perpetuate these divisions. All too often, our lament takes the form ‘if only the laity or our leaders would stop doing X and start doing Y’. Of course, we should all want the Church to be united, for this is what Christ Himself wanted, but the great temptation is to suppose that the source of division lies somewhere else other than within ourselves.

Now lamenting about divisions within the Church is nothing new. Indeed, in the second reading from St Paul, we hear one of the earliest laments about division within the Church in its history. But what is notable about St Paul’s lament is that he doesn’t simply identify what is dividing the Church. He also points us to what is uniting the Church, namely the cross of Jesus Christ. Thus, St Paul says: “Christ did not send me to baptise but to preach the gospel, …, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”

So, in the light of what St Paul says, we should indeed lament divisions within the Church, for divisions risk emptying the cross of Christ of its true meaning. But on the other hand, St Paul also offers us a way of overcoming division: this is to bear witness to what the cross of Jesus Christ truly means. We should therefore be asking ourselves how the cross of Jesus Christ has touched our lives, and we should have the courage to bear witness to this fact.

In the first reading, Isaiah prophesied “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. And in the Gospel, St Matthew tells us that this prophecy was being fulfilled when Jesus Christ began His preaching mission: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Do we have the conviction that this prophecy has also been fulfilled in our own lives? Do we have the courage to tell others that the light of the cross has removed the darkness from our souls? It is hard to do this without sounding sanctimonious, but this is what we must do if the things that divide us are to be overcome. It is with this desire in mind that I will share with you something of my own story of how Christ has lighted up my life.

Although I have always been a practising Catholic, until a year or so before entering the Dominican Order, I had never really spent much time thinking seriously about the truths of the Catholic Faith. I told myself that thinking about the Faith was for theologians, and that I should let them get on with doing what they do well, while I would get on with doing what I do well.

Yet, looking back on this period in my life, I now realise that the real reason I didn’t want to think seriously about the truths of the Catholic Faith was that I was frightened that if I did, I might discover that they weren’t truths after all. At the back of my mind, I had a deep anxiety that perhaps what I really valued had no value, that perhaps life was without meaning, that perhaps God did not exist.

This was my dark night of the soul, and it went on for many years. That was until one day back in 2004, I was on my own at home sitting in an armchair and struggling to pray in a way that didn’t feel hollow and insincere, when all of a sudden, it was as though the lights were turned on: I knew I was loved by God, and that He had been there beside me all along without my realising it. From that point on, I knew that if I started to think seriously about my Faith, God wasn’t going to abandon me. On the contrary, it seemed like it would be an exciting adventure with Christ leading the way. And so began the journey which resulted in my entering the Dominican Order and being ordained to the priesthood.

Now my story is just one of many stories. Many of us go through periods of feeling lost and confused, but when the light of Christ breaks into our lives, we see that such times of darkness were necessary in order for the seed of faith to take root. And when we begin to see the miracle that Christ is working within us, no worldly pleasure or ambition can compare with it.

It is all too easy for us to see what is wrong with the Church, but to see what is right with the Church requires conversion. Healing within the Church will not come about by trying to focus on the sources of division. It will only come about by looking towards the source of unity. This source of unity is the cross of Jesus Christ that shines in the darkness. It is this light that gives meaning to our lives and sustains the life of the Church. Indeed, it is this light that unites us. 

Is 8:23-9:3  |  1 Cor 1:10-13,17  |  Matt 4:12-23

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of the Crucifix in the National Shrine of St Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg MA.  

Robert Verrill O.P.

Robert Verrill Robert Verrill  lives in the Dominican Priory in Cambridge, where he works at the University chaplaincy while completing a Doctorate at Baylor University, Texas.


Janya Martin commented on 28-Jan-2020 12:46 AM
Thank you, Father Robert! We love your homilies! They always bring us the light of profound truth. Thank you for bringing us your light in Waco, Texas.

Post a Comment

Captcha Image
Follow us
Meet the Student Brothers

Meet the Student Brothers



Featured Series

Featured Series

Recent posts


Liturgical index

All tags & authors


Upcoming events

View the full calendar