Friday, December 29, 2006

29 December
Light in the Darkness

Readings: 1 John 2:3-11; Psalm 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 5b-6; Luke 2:22-35

Yesterday we meditated on the awesome power of the light of Christ, the power by which the Holy Innocents were ushered into eternal glory. Today, our readings help us to deepen our reflection. As we heard in our opening prayer: The coming of your light into the world has made the darkness vanish… What is our experience of darkness? And how does Christ’s birth cause it to vanish?

Of course, we all know that Christ comes to dispel the darkness of sin. But what does this mean for us? Is it only a matter of avoiding thoughts and actions that may be considered taboo – of trying not to be judgmental or not to gossip, not to use bad language, or not to steal the office stationery? All this is true. But is that all? Is this the full extent of the darkness that vanishes in the light of Christ?

Our first reading speaks of something far more radical. The light that Christ brings is the light of love, a love by which the almighty God empties himself for the sake of his people, even to the extent of assuming the condition of a helpless babe in a manger. And through this newborn baby the darkness of sin is recognized for what it is: simply the failure to love, the failure to desire the good of the other, the failure to allow one’s whole life to revolve around that desire, the way Christ did who came that we may have life to the full (cf. Jn 10:10). Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still living in the dark…

If this is true, then we encounter darkness in our life whenever we encounter situations that make it difficult for us to love ourselves, God and others. This may come in different forms. There is the darkness of pain. Someone does something, or something happens that causes us to suffer. And in our pain, we allow our hearts to harden. There is also the darkness of routine. Day after day, we live with the same person, the same peculiarities of character, or we go through the motions of the same religious rituals, and we become jaded. The passion for life wanes and with it goes the desire to love and the willingness to pay the price of love.

What do we do at these times? The example of Simeon is instructive. He is an old man. He has waited a long time for the light. And yet, old though he may be, Simeon’s eyes are still very sharp. He recognizes the light even when it comes as a helpless child undergoing a routine religious ritual. And he welcomes it with joyful praise even as he speaks courageously of the pain that the light will bring: a sword will pierce your own soul too. How does Simeon do it? How does he remain in the light even in the midst of darkness? The gospel cannot make it anymore obvious: the Holy Spirit rested on him…it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit… prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple...

How might we continue to allow the Spirit to move us from darkness to light today?

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