Both today’s First Reading from the prophet Isaiah,(58: 7-10), and the Gospel from St Matthew (5: 13 – 16) feature strong imagery of light.
Ovalau Island is a lush tropical volcanic island of about 100 square kilometres It is the main island of the Lomaiviti Group which is part of the Fiji group of islands. The islands are the peaks of deep-sea volcanoes that became extinct millions of years ago.
The island, like many in the Pacific, is surrounded by a large coral reef. These coral reefs are hazardous for shipping, they can tear the bottom out of a boat irrespective of its size.
The island’s main town, Levuka, has a tuna canning processing plant owned and run by PAFCO. With regularity, boats arrive with fresh tuna for processing. Of course, they need to negotiate with real care for the one entry spot among the coral reef which enables them to dock and unload.
Sitting on the foreshore of Levuka township is the Catholic Church named the Sacred Heart. The church was built and consecrated in 1858 by the Marist Fathers.
A feature of the Church is its 80ft high masonry bell tower.
The church sits opposite the safe entry spot through the reef.
The spire of the tower is fitted with a neon light in the form of a cross, which is used by ships to navigate safely through the Levuka Passage to the port; this light works in synchronization with another green light fitted on the hill.
Fishing boats from Taiwan, Korea and China, all are dependent on safe passage through the reef by lining up their bow to the “light” shining out from the Church.
It is quite an experience to be returning by sea to Levuka town, and through the absolute blackness of a tropical night to be beckoned on, to be drawn home by “the light “ on the Church tower!
There is certainly no “hiding your light under a bushel” going on here, rather “the light” is drawing one forward and ensuring safe passage, entry, and arrival home!
I invite you to sit for a time with the image being offered: a navigation light sitting atop a Catholic Church!