Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Look Into the Light

Most people who know me, know that I used to be a commercial electrical foreman.  One of the first things I would do on a construction site would be to get up some sort of lighting.  The first lesson I learned out there in the field was that it's very hard to have quality work if you can't see what you are doing.  It was amazing though how much detail came out when you really lit up the place.  A counter might even look pretty decent with the lights off, then you turn them on and the dirt and grime of the construction process was evident at a glance.  Then I began to see some shady practices that went on out there in the world of commercial sales.  Customers would request certain 'temperature' bulbs for certain applications.  One large food supply store would ask for red tinted bulbs in the meat section to make the food look fresher.  A package of ground beef with a slightly grey tinge would take on a nice, even red hue when placed under these lights.  Another would ask us to lower the wattage in the kitchens so that it wasn't as easy to see the imperfections or lack of cleaning.

That brings me to a spiritual reality that works on those same lines.  The closer you get to light, the easier it is to see imperfections.  The closer you get to the purity of God? The more obvious the filth and dirt in our souls becomes.  That's what sin is really, it's a marr, a missing of the mark.. a dirty spot on our soul.   If you read any of the writings of the Saints you'll see that as they drew closer to God, they felt worse and worse about even the smallest smudge.  After all in a relationship shouldn't we feel bad about the slightest of infidelities?  There are two reactions though that one can have.  One can draw to the light, see the smudges and be convinced they need to clean it up; or one can flee from the light and go for those things which they prefer to the effort it takes to carry their cross.

We humans are fickle things aren't we?  Most of us know exactly what we need to do to be closer to God in our lives.   We like those things though that feel good, that reward us temporally and physically.   We have that pesky concupiscence that makes us want power, pleasure, honor, and wealth.  Christ in the beatitudes challenges us though to put those things in their proper place.  To instead draw closer to the light, to examine any and every log that we might find in our own lives before ever considering to look for even a speck in someone else's.  

Today's Gospel reminds me of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  All too often people run from Confession.  Why?  Jesus says it very plainly: For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.   We don't want the light to expose what we've done.   In our basements, in our private times, behind closed doors, when not everyone sees.  We fear what the Priest might say or think about us, or even at times we cling to that sin.. the one we don't want to give up.. the one we know we should.  That's pretty much the definition of Hell isn't it?

You see, our faith teaches us that Hell is a choice we make.  It also teaches us that God is an all consuming fire.   Fire burns.  What does God burn?  He burns out the sin.   The Sacred Scriptures tell us that God is a refiner at the furnace, purifying us like gold or silver.  He melts us down and slowly removes the dross.  Someone once told me that the way a refiner knows that the gold or silver is ready is when he can see his own reflection in it.  Think about that for a moment.. when God can see not us in our actions.. but His Son, Jesus Christ.  What happens though when we don't let go of sin? It burns.... I truly believe that for those who have any attachment of sin, that's what happens after this life.  Those who die with no sin attached?  Straight to Heaven.   Those who have an attachment but want to let go of it, and want to cling to God?  Purgatory.  Those who refuse to give up the sin?  Hell.  For eternity God's love washes over them trying to remove this sin from their soul.. this stain... and it burns... but they hold on to it and blame God for the burning.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.   It is God's hope that by sending his Son, the light itself, into the world that it would help every single person to see the areas of sin they needed to work on and remove them from their lives.   That's what the Sacraments are all about.   Confession cleanses us, it allows us to walk into the light and say Lord, give me the grace to remove those things that being in your presence makes me aware of.  Then the Eucharist, oh that marvelous and beautiful Sacrament that is the sign of our faith!   In it Christ himself comes to us and washes over us with his love and embrace.  I am never more aware of my sins than when I come up that aisle to receive Him into my body.  I trust though, that as I draw near to the purest of all lights, and as even the smallest speck of venial sin glares at me, and the demons of this world call out to me and tell me I'm not worthy... I place it all at the foot of the cross and say, "You are right.  I'm not worthy.  I just trust my Savior."  As John said, "Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned."

So ask yourself this morning what is standing in your way?  Like the Apostles in the first reading, each of us has a prison that we've been locked into.   God has been sending his angels to us in the dark night of our oppression to open the doors and to send us on our way to tell others about this life.  What is your prison?  What is holding you back?  What sin has you locked behind it's doors preventing you from living that life of joy, freedom and faith that comes with the grace of God?  Let Him open the doors.  They are locked but God holds the key, and He Himself handed that key to the Church.  Go receive it for yourself in the Sacraments.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."