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In the 6th century B.C.—six hundred years before the birth of Christ—we begin to see the early development of the Roman Empire. It wasn’t until the third century B.C. that the empire began to expand outside of the Italian peninsula, but from there it continued steady growth, to eventually include all the land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was this same Roman Empire that controlled Israel when Jesus was alive.
We know that following his life, the followers of Jesus began to carry the Gospel out into the world, but the world they were carrying it into—the Roman Empire—was a pagan world, worshipping many different gods. Because Christianity preached against these other gods, the Christians often found themselves in conflict, which lead to the death of so many of the martyrs we talk about. Yet, early in the fourth century A.D., the Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity, making it the “popular” religion and in 380 A.D., the Emperor Theodosius the Great established Christianity as the official religion of the Empire, and for awhile, Christianity enjoyed a certain peace, but then came the Barbarians from the north. The Roman Empire and Christianity remained on the European continent until 476 A.D. That year, the last Roman Emperor was defeated, the Empire fell, and Christianity went with it, ushering the Dark Ages in Europe. However, in the late 7th century and early 8th, the light began to return, coming from Celtic Churches in Ireland and England. One bringer of that light was Boniface, who we celebrate today. He is known as the Apostle to the Germans, having converted thousands through his work.
How do you go about bringing the light into dark places? In a letter, intended for clergy, but applicable to all who are called into God’s Royal Priesthood, Boniface writes: “In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course… Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as Saint Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.”
In our Gospel reading, just prior to his Ascension, Jesus said, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Boniface was one who proclaimed repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus name and brought the light of the Gospel to a dark land. We must follow his lead, because although there is light around us, there are still shadows and dark places where the light of God’s love needs to shine. St. Josemaría Escrivá writes, “We are children of God. —Bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed —The Lord uses us as torches, to make that light shine out… It depends on us that many should not remain in darkness, but walk instead along paths that lead to eternal life.” (The Forge #1)
Carry the light through your words and actions, through your love of God, to the darkest corners and watch as that darkness flees before your.