A reflection on the readings for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time.
Many years ago when I was a young man in college, the power had gone out in the entire neighborhood. I decided to walk to my mothers house for dinner. I knew that no matter what, she and my father would be prepared for the dark. They'd have a fire or something going and be cooking somehow. I don't remember why I chose to walk instead of drive, maybe I didn't have a car at the time. That was often the case back then with only one car and two people working.
I remember stepping out into the moonless night, with no lights on anywhere. At first it was so dark I could see nothing. I even recall putting my hands out in front of me as I walked, as if I were recently blinded and trying to find my way along with my fingers. Stumbling through the dark I was completely unable to see. Oh how dark things seemed. I remember jumping at sounds in the woods, flinching at what I thought might be a snack or animal in the road. I eventually began to adjust to the dim light of the stars and began to make out the true details of my surroundings. By the time I actually got to my parents home my eyes had adjusted, and I could see decently in the dark. How bright the candles seemed when they opened the door to me, even enough to be painful to my eyes. It was warm though, welcoming, even wanted!
To me, this is what Apocalyptic literature is like. It seems dark at first. Even a bit scary. The end goal of it is not to scare you though. It is not to place you in darkness, but to help you find a warm, welcoming light at the end. When I was a protestant years ago these readings made me a bit scared, even enough that I often scanned the news and the radio looking for 'signs', constantly worrying about the second coming and the 'rapture.' I no longer worry about these things. Why? Because the second coming is not something to be scared of. It's something to long for. It's something to pray for, and be ready for every day.
I think that like the dark night I stepped out into, we too are walking in a dark night now. Our eyes in this world are used to the amount of light that is here. The sun, the moon, the stars... all of these are the light we have become accustomed to. In my mind and heart, that is what Jesus is talking about when he says "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it's light." That at the second coming, when the brilliance of the Son of God is revealed, the rest of the light we are used to will be so dim that it will not even be of relevance. Like that candle in my mom and dad's house, his light will be so bright that if I were to even think of stepping back into the star lit world it would be so dark my eyes would not longer even pick out the details. I'd be stumbling in the dark again, holding my hands out before me for fear of falling.
The thing is though, we do not have to be fearful of that day, nor even to wait for that day to have our world illuminated. While, yes, Jesus Christ will be coming again at the end of time, he's already here among us now. We can draw closer to God daily, through the Sacraments, through His Church, and through each other. This is a beautiful thing, but also like the scene above, has a truth that should be cautioned. The closer you get to the light, the darker 'darkness' is. The closer you draw to Jesus Christ in this life, the more your sin will seem. Things that seem small now will stand out much, much more as you draw nearer to the source of all holiness.
When I was working in the construction field one of the first things I liked to do was hang the lights. I'd even hang them before a ceiling was anywhere near in place. Using temporary wiring I would try to have the entire building lit up brightly before even the floor was poured. This was great for people working, giving them plenty of light to work with. It also brought out every imperfection, even speck of dust, and every 'mess' that someone left. A counter that might seem clean in a dimly lit room can turn out to have quite a bit of crud when you truly light it up. So too our souls.
The devil will try to use that against you. The closer you get to God, the more Satan will try to convince you that you do not deserve it. He will try to convince you that God would never forgive you. That little speck of dust will look so immense when compared to the brightness of God himself. Don't let him draw you away from God and His mercy. God will forgive you! Draw closer to the light. Seek the Sacraments. Seek His face. So that you may be among those who "shall live forever" and not those who "shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace." Keep walking in the darkness of this light, searching for the light of Christ. This is our hope as Christians! That we might find our Father's house, and the place He has prepared for us. That when the end of our time comes, we might be welcomed into His abode and be prepared for the light that will wash over us. A light so bright that everything behind us will seem dim and dark, as the Sacred Scriptures affirm:
And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:5
His servant and yours,