By Susan Ciancio
“You are light for the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lampstand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16
Last weekend’s Gospel readings resonate with the story of two brothers whose courage and love of God earned them a martyrdom but allowed their light to shine to others and help build a culture of life—not just during their time on earth but even after their deaths.
Saints Faustinus and Jovita were brothers born in second century Italy, when the emperor Hadrian viciously persecuted those who professed to believe in God. Faustinus was a priest and Jovita a deacon, and both were extremely devout in their faith and never tired in teaching others about Christ. Even though they knew they could be killed for their faith, they spoke openly and fervently, letting their light shine as they taught others about the one true God.
According to one account, when an officer arrested Faustinus and Jovita for being Christians, the officer demanded that they worship the sun. Faustinus replied that they only worshipped the God who created the sun, which gives light to the world. They were arrested and thrown into a fire pit, but neither of them burned. Many witnesses to this event were awestruck and converted because of this miracle. The brothers were imprisoned briefly, but it’s said that angels provided them with food. They were then beheaded and martyred for their faith.
Faustinus’ and Jovita’s steadfast love of God, their unwavering faith, and their courage inspired countless people to convert to Catholicism. They lived their lives for Christ and for the good of His children.
Follow His command
Christ told us that our light “must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.”
That’s exactly what Sts. Faustinus and Jovita did. They were not afraid to stand up for their faith and tell others about Christ. Their courage and their love of God brought countless others to Him. And, today, almost 2,000 years later, we remember their courage and their strength.
How many of us have that same courage and strength to stand up for our faith and pro-life truth? There is no greater evil in this world than abortion. When it comes to standing up for human life, do we let our light shine, or do we keep it hidden? Do we help build a culture of life every day, or do we immerse ourselves in things that may not help us get ourselves or others to heaven?
It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day doldrums of life, but that is not how we build a culture of life. Sts. Faustinus and Jovita didn’t keep to themselves, afraid to tell others about Christ. They spoke bravely, letting His light—and the light within themselves—shine brightly so that it could affect others and illuminate them as well. They understood that souls were at stake.
And in this fight for human life, souls are indeed at stake. The tiny babies whose lives are taken in an abortion may enjoy heaven, but God wanted them here! Think about the souls of the mothers and fathers who make the decision to end their child’s life. Think about the souls of the doctors who perform abortions and of the politicians who fight to keep abortion legal. Think about the souls of the young people fooled into believing that human life is disposable. All of those souls are being led astray by a culture that devalues human life from its beginning until its end. Though we live in a different world than the world of Sts. Faustinus and Jovita, the fight against evil is the same. That is why we must let our light shine so that others see Christ’s truth and live their lives accordingly. Until we change hearts and minds, abortion and other evils against human dignity will continue to plague our nation and our world.
Through us and our actions—our good works, our kindness, and the little and big things we do to affirm the dignity of others to let them know that they matter and have value—a light shines. God’s light shines.
Our goal is to attain heaven and to help others attain it as well. If we do not act upon our faith and build a culture of life in our families and communities, we are wasting the gifts God has bestowed upon us.
So, as we ponder the lives and actions of these two great saints today, let us remember their bravery and their steadfast love of Christ. And let us emulate it and teach our children to emulate it. Build your “city” on a hilltop, and ask yourself: How will others come to know God through me today?