Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 9, 2020
Way back in 1940, there was a special movie premier…Not in Hollywood or New York or London…but in Port Huron, Michigan. Mickey Rooney played the lead in the biographical film called “Young Tom Edison,” the setting being Port Huron, where Edison spent much of his childhood.
One of the more memorable scenes in the movie comes about when Edison’s mother suddenly takes ill. The town doctor was summoned. He made his diagnosis and explained that surgery was the only hope if she was to live through the night. Unfortunately, surgery was not possible because there was insufficient lighting to enable the doctor to operate. This, of course, happened before electricity.
While the rest of the family, grief-stricken by the shocking news, surrounded what they were certain was to be Mrs. Edison’s deathbed, “Young Tom Edison” sprang into action. He ran through the house gathering every mirror, oil lamp, and candle that he could find. He arranged the mirrors all around the dining room table and placed the lamps and candles in front of them. Calling the doctor away from the dying woman’s room, he led the man into the dining room now flooded with more than enough light to enable him to successfully operate on Edison’s mother.
This story somehow made its way into children’s textbooks in a chapter dealing with the inventor’s life. Eventually, someone “fact checking” determined that it could not have happened as depicted in the movie. In the late 1800’s, surgery had not advanced to the point that an operation of this nature would have taken place, regardless of how well-lit the room was. So, apparently, the textbooks were edited, and the story deleted. It seems a shame because the little story was a fine way to teach children how mirrors can make a dark room seem brighter by reflecting and magnifying a light source. The little story…real or not…might help us as well, come to deeper understanding of this Sunday’s readings.
Over the past few weeks, we have heard about the radiant light of Christ. This “Christ-light” dispelled the darkness that overwhelmed creation through the original sin. But it is part of God’s plan that we reflect and magnify this brilliant light so that the darkness of sin and death is completely vanquished.
Whether or not “Young Tom Edison” actually saved his mother’s life, he certainly must have understood the power of reflective surfaces like mirrors. And although mirrors have no power on their own to generate light, they do have the ability to increase the brightness of a room by reflecting and magnifying a light placed in front of them.
Through Baptism, the light of Christ is placed before us. And although, on our own, we do not have the ability to generate this “Christ-light,” we can and should make every effort to diffuse it. There is nothing we human beings can do to add or detract from the Glory of God. But what we can do is enable this “Christ-light” to reflect off of us, and, in that way, drive back darkness even more aggressively.
When people of good will let their souls become reflective surfaces, brightening the world with the Christ-light…what is revealed is hunger, oppression, homelessness, and dire poverty.
The spotlight revealing this suffering…we are then called to offer relief. Humankind can no more produce God’s glory than a mirror can generate light. But once we become aware of the needs of others, we do have the power to offer relief and bring about healing.
That is God’s plan. God provides the light, and we reflect it and magnify it. In so doing, our next challenge becomes visible. We are expected to feed the hungry, shelter the displaced, clothe the naked, and speak out on behalf of the oppressed.