This homily was given to the Reading Ordinariate Group, based at St James, Reading: Dominus illuminatio mea, is not only the opening phrase sung in the Introit at today’s Mass, but it is also the motto of the University of Oxford, just an hour down the road from where we are this morning.
Taken from Psalm 26 (or 27, depending on which system of numbering we are used to), the words The Lord is my light and my salvation, are a reminder for us of what – or rather, who – we rely on for our knowledge. They remind us who is the original and complete source of all truth: the Lord, who illumines our minds and our hearts, and who, in the person of Jesus Christ, brings us to salvation.
In one of his less radical moments, the Austrian priest and philosopher Ivan Illich – he of Tolstoy fame – commented on this text, saying, “At every instant everything derives its existence from [God’s] continued creative act. Things
radiate by virtue of their constant dependance on this creative act”. In other words, we cannot possibly know or understand anything in this life, until and unless we accept the basic premise of the existence of God. Without our acceptance of God’s fundamental role in the world, nothing can truly make sense.
It is not unusual these days to meet someone who not only has rejected the existence of God, but who wishes to
challenge those who do accept him. Invariably – and we see this with Dawkins and all the so-called New Atheists – the god which they claim to argue against is not one that right-thinking Christians would recognise. Often they refer to God’s existence as
unlikely as the existence of (and I quote) ‘The Flying Spaghetti Monster’ – in other words, claiming that Christians (or in fact any persons of faith) believe in something as unlikely and unprovable as an airborne pasta-based beast.
Well, we don’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and nor do we believe in a god who is simply – as Fr Robert Barron puts it – ‘one being among many’. We do not believe that our God is the biggest and greatest being in the universe; rather we believe that he is the sheer act of being itself. When Moses asks the Lord for his name in the burning bush, his response is not to identify himself on our terms, but to state, ‘I am who I am’ (Ex. 3:14). This is why we do not believe that God
simply interprets truth, as if he is the most intelligent being we can imagine – an imagined being like the Flying
Spaghetti Monster – rather, we believe that he is Truth, that he is Beauty, that he is Goodness. God is the fullness and fulfilment of all things, and so Dominus illuminatio mea – the Lord is our light and our salvation.
In the Second Reading from the Epistle to the Galatians, Saint Paul tells us that ‘The Good News […] is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Gal. 1:11). Saint Paul, sent to spread the message
of the Gospel, does not simply recounting a story or a message, but a
person, the person of Jesus Christ. In the revelation shown him in Christ – the light which is shed on his life by knowing the Lord – Saint Paul is able to bring that light and salvation to those he meets, that they too may come to know Christ, and so know the fullness of life which we are offered. This is why, when someone is baptised, we give them a lighted candle; why in the darkness of the tomb on Holy Saturday, the Paschal Fire and Paschal Candle, dispel the darkness of the night – Christ, illumines our minds and our hearts, and reveals to us who we are called to really be, if we are transformed by his love and his grace.
To fully understand who we are, and to know more fully who we are called to be, we must first know Christ. He is our light and our salvation, and he shows us how we are supposed to live our lives in this life, in order that we can live for all eternity in the life of the world to come. How do we have that relationship, that friendship with Christ? How do come to see more clearly in the light of his revelation? Through prayer, through a living and active relationship with him and each other in the communion of the Church, and in his presence with us here in the Eucharist: in the tabernacle, and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
We do not rely on any human message, but on the revelation of Jesus Christ. May the Lord shed his revealing light upon us, that we may come to know him as our Saviour and our Lord, that we may be sharers in the life he offers to us all in his presence in heaven.