Homily – July 17, 2022
As I was writing this the rain was falling, drops of wet from a featureless gray sky. They said it was supposed to be this way for most of the day, and the temptation was strong to just go back to bed, pull the covers over my head, and escape into sleep.
I do admit that sometimes I feel the same way about the world. I’m tired of the fighting, the quarreling, the scandal, the silly games, the circus, the immaturity of those in charge of it and the prefabricated emotions of those who follow. There are times when I just want to find a little town somewhere or a place in the country, pull the covers over my head, and escape into sleep.
I miss the world I lived in as a child. Not because it was perfect, but because looking back it seemed at least better. There were certainties. There were constants. There was an underlying rhythm that people, even if they didn’t always practice it, at least paid lip service. Of course, I was a child then, with a child’s view of the world. I’ve learned so much more now, most of it I wish I didn’t know, but at least it helped me understand why Jesus said we must become like the children we were to enter the Kingdom.
So, what to do?
The past is unchangeable, we are where we are, and as much as I’d sometimes like to go back to being a kid without much more care than finding time to ride my bike, that option is off the table. The present world is upon me, upon us, and it will eventually catch up with me, with us no matter how powerful our fantasies.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven…”
When faced with a dark, strange, and uncomfortable reality, the only way out is through and the only way through is to transform it beginning from within. We may become upset, we may despair, we may become angry, we may look for someone to rescue us, but the light we need is inside of us.
Now that light isn’t our own conscience, our intellectual capacity, or the power of human reasoning. These things should not be despised in and of themselves, but they need to be understood and valued in the context of the reality of our human frailty and brokenness. Even the best of our intentions can, if not carefully guided, descend into madness and at the core of our contemporary dilemma lies knowledge without wisdom, emotion without thoughtfulness, technology without humanity, and all of it without any sense of transcendence.
The light we do need is the Light, that as the Apostle John says, existed even before the creation, the Light that is the life all humanity, the Light that shines in the darkness and before which that same darkness is powerless.
It is the Light we were given by the grace of the Holy Spirit in our baptism and chrismation. “Thou art illumined…” our Priest said, and at that word Light was given to us by God, light to see, light to understand, light to cleanse, light to make whole, light to perceive, light to shine in our own and the world’s darkness as well.
This is the light for the transformation of ourselves and the whole creation into that for which it was originally made. This is the light that saves people and cultures from not only a hell to come but the present hells of our own making. This light points out the path, gives wisdom to the thoughtless, makes the simple eloquent, and destroys great powers while saving the helpless. It is Christ within, shining so brightly that even our bodies are changed. It is Christ lived in this dark world to the extent that our own shadows and those around as well disappear.
When the faithful Christian prays that Light shines. When they worship that Light becomes a joyous song in a world of desperate chant. Their righteousness illumines the night. As they reach out to serve the other, the broken, the needy, those whom life has trampled, it uplifts cultures. When it is allowed to fill a person, body, and soul, they become glorious even while here on Earth, Saints among us.
The power of this light is profound beyond imagination. Demons flee from its presence and our wise elders have reminded us that we need not so much to fight against their evil as to open ourselves up to the Light from which they, and their temptations, must flee.
The glorious Caesars of this Earth are not ultimately a match for the light of God. They come and go but it remains. They fight against it for a time, but they fade away in its eternity. They wish to remind you they’re a powerful wind, but they can’t extinguish a single holy candle.
To be illumined by the Light is not to be unaware of the darkness around us, but rather to have the quiet confidence that each of us can, by the grace of God and in our own way, pierce it with hope. It doesn’t have to great, newspaper worthy things, every little bit of light shining from us makes a difference, every prayer, every act of worship, every righteous deed, every bit of holy love shared, all of it matters, all of it is powerful, all of it has the power to transform the place where it matters most, the world immediately around us. Collectively each little light can transform nations, societies, and cultures.
I know, I get tired sometimes. Each little bit of news or information from the world around me has become like a tiny bit of poison, slowly trying to kill my soul. Yet I am also convinced that the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overpowered it and I want to share that with you as well so that no matter where the world is at at any given moment you can live in that Light and never be overcome.
It’s time to shine.