Monday, January 07, 2008

Monday After Epiphany
Light and Shadow

Readings: 1 John 3:22–4:6; Psalm 2:7bc-8, 10-12a; Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

Test the spirits to see whether they belong to God…

In the wake of the solemn feast of the Epiphany, the Mass readings and prayers for today contain many references to the Light. Most notably, the gospel contains a quotation from Isaiah (8:23-9:1): the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light… The congregation to which I was sent to minister over Christmas had a quite literal experience of this verse shortly before the beginning of one of the dawn Masses. There was, apparently, a problem with the overhead projector, which caused the circuit-breaker to trip. For several long minutes, the whole church was plunged into pitch darkness. You can imagine the cheers when the lights finally came on…

But joy is not the only result of the Light’s coming. The beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in the gospel also brings with it another crucial benefit. In the words of Psalm 36:9, with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light… The light of Christ enables us to distinguish more clearly light from shadow. Or, in the words of the first reading, Christ helps us to test the spirits that are at work in the world, to see whether they belong to God

To do this, we need to contemplate the effects of the Light’s presence. We need to consider the words and works of Jesus. In today’s gospel, the most obvious and comforting of these is, of course, healing. We’re told that great crowds gathered from all over the country and followed Jesus because he cured every disease and illness among the people. But physical and emotional healing is not the only sign of the Light’s presence. The gospel also tells us that Jesus preached the challenging message of repentance and reconciliation. Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Among the great crowds who flocked to him, we may wonder how many actually heard this deeper message. How many actually correctly read the miracles worked by the Lord as signs of a deeper truth, a more urgent calling…

There is yet another aspect to the Light’s coming that is just as demanding and no less essential. We find a hint of this at the beginning of today’s gospel, which speaks of the arrest of John the Baptist. Not only does the Light come to heal and to reconcile, but the Light also brings this about in a very distinctive way, by submitting, in love, to the humiliation of the Cross

Like the community to whom the first reading is addressed, we too live our lives in the midst of a diversity of spirits, voices that prompt us to think, feel and act in very distinctive ways. And doesn’t it also remain true that there continue to be false prophets among us? Isn’t it crucial for us to be able to distinguish light from shadow, to continue to test the spirits against the Light who is Christ?

How are we being called to do this today?

1 comment:

  1. It's been said that darkness is not a reality; it is but the absence of light. That is why, I guess, we are all familiar with the relief that follows when "the lights come on again", dispelling the darkness.

    Today, I reflect on those who, through no fault of their own and certainly not through their own choosing, operate in darkness - the darkness of depression, of self-doubt, of envy for instance.

    In nature, nocturnal animals live and hunt in pitch darkness of night employing sharp, God-given senses. Their Creator, I am sure, acres for and loves them as much as the creatures of day.

    For individuals operating in darkness, the light of Christ works in inexplicable ways to bring about healing, repentance and reconciliation.

    Still on the subject of repentance and reconciliation, Fr Chris' observation resonates with me. Even for myself, it is always healing that is in the forefront of my prayers but not repentance and reconciliation. Why? I guess I only have to ask for healing whereas repentance and reconciliation demand sincerity and resolve and, above all, my co-operation with the Holy Spirit.

    Come Holy Spirit of light to renew your creation.