When does Darkness End?
Read time: 5.5 minutes
In the Bible, especially the New Testament, “darkness” represents any space, or quality of being, that is far away from God. When Jesus talks about “outer darkness”, as he does in the parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt. 22), he is speaking about being cut off from God. God does not cut us off from God’s self; this happens because of choices we make, often the result of sin, spiritual laziness, or spiritual immaturity.
I bring this topic up because I attended the Men’s conference in our parish this last weekend and the speaker asked, “Are you a disciple of Jesus, or just a fan? Do you love Jesus, or do you love “church community and events, and religious ceremony and devotions?” In essence, he was asking if we were “cultural Catholics” or were we allowing ourselves to be transformed into men more like Christ. If we are being transformed what would be the evidence? Wow! Tough questions.
I have been pondering those questions ever since. I must admit that I love our Church. I love the Catholic faith, and what the Church teaches. I love the liturgy and our feast days. I love my faith community and the people I’ve met there. I love our gatherings, our opportunities to learn more and grow closer to God. I love it all! However, all those things have only one purpose: to bring me closer to God, to point me in the right direction, to help me stay on the right path to salvation. If those aspects of my spiritual journey become the “thing itself”, then I have lost my way. Jesus, and my relationship with God, is the thing itself.
Transformation is what the Spiritual life is all about, becoming more like Jesus. Our task as disciples is to take on the discipline of Jesus and become more like him (notice that “discipline” and “disciple” have the same root word). Jesus demonstrated how to live the law of Moses more perfectly than people had been living it. Such a life meant always keeping the law in mind but putting people first. If helping a person meant breaking a certain law, such as the laws of cleanliness, or the Sabbath, or helping a bleeding person rather than going to the temple to worship, then mercy and love always came first. Jesus says on more than one occasion: “Go and learn what it means, “I demand mercy, not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13; Hosea 6:1-6).
Becoming more like Jesus is always a challenge. Humans are hardwired to want things their own way. We categorize people into “us and them, winners and losers, who is in and who is out”. Fr. Greg Boyle, and others, say we must reject the dualism these categories create because Jesus demands a new way of thinking and living. Fr. Greg calls us to build communities to “beloved belonging” where it is “sometimes me, sometimes you, but always us”. He calls us to remember that we belong to each other. This was St. Teresa of Calcutta’s call, as well.
Henri Nouwen told an old Jewish parable:
A rabbi asked his students: “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night is over and the dawn begins?”
A student asks, “Is it when from a distance you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep?”
“No,” answered the rabbi.
“Is it when one can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?” asked another?
“No,” was the reply.
“Please tell us the answer,” the students said.
“It is when,” said the wise teacher, “you can look into the eyes of another human being, and you have enough light in you to see your brother or sister. Until then it is night, and the darkness is still with us.” *
I pray that I shall always hold the light of Christ in my heart, and I pray for all of you, that together we shall all live in the light of Christ, as sisters and brothers. Amen.
*From:Nouwen, Henri, Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long walk of Faith. New York, NY:HarperCollins, 2006.