Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thursday in the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest
Revealing Love

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29; Psalm 132:1-2, 3-5, 11, 12, 13-14; Mark 4:21-25

For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light…

I’m reminded today of a brief encounter between two characters on a TV series, a man and a woman. The woman comes across a photograph of the man, taken by a well-known photographer. The shot is so well taken that she is moved to exclaim: wow, she really got you to glow! What were you doing at the time? The man hesitates to answer because, at the time the shot was taken, he’d been admiring a photo that the same photographer had taken of the woman. And, of course, he’s secretly in love with her. What I find interesting in the scene is the parallel between the talent of the photographer and the power of love. What defines the latter is its capacity to cause a person to glow, just as what defines the former is his or her ability to reveal that glow and capture it for posterity. I’m reminded here of Jean Vanier’s definition of love. To love someone, according to Vanier, is to reveal to that person his or her inner beauty.

I wonder if these thoughts might not help us to make sense of what Jesus is telling us in the gospel today. When we hear Jesus speak about the lamp that is meant to be placed on a lampstand, it is usual for us to hear it first as a moral obligation. We are that lamp and so we need to let our light shine out for all the world to see. We need to go out and do things. That is, of course, true. Even so, I wonder if there might not be more to it than that, especially when we consider that these words of Jesus follow immediately upon his explanation of the parable of the sower. In that parable, while there is mention of the bearing of a rich harvest, this seems to come more as the result of our receptivity than activity. The power of the seed that is God’s Word, is such that it always bears fruit, if only the soil is right.

And it stands to reason that this should be so, especially when we consider that God’s Word is also a word spoken in love. Indeed, as John the Evangelist reminds us, God is love (1 John 4:8). Thus, to be good soil, to be receptive to God’s Word, is first to allow the love of God to reveal to us our own inner beauty. Isn’t this how the lamp comes to be placed on the lampstand, so as to shine its light for all the world to see?

Isn’t this, also, what we see happening in the first reading? We may recall from yesterday that King David has just received a word from God through the prophet Samuel. We may think, at first, that it is bad news, for it thwarts his plan of building a temple. But David is so receptive to the word that he is able to go beyond the apparent bad news to hear the loving promise that is extended to him, to his household, and to the whole people of Israel. And, in today’s first reading, we have his response: a beautiful prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God. Not only does his receptivity to God’s word evoke a prayer of great beauty, but through his leadership, the kingdom of Israel becomes a light to the nations. This is the result of receptivity to the power of God’s love, which reveals inner beauty to a waiting world…

How does God, the divine photographer, wish to love us into light today?

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