Have Great Faith in the Light of Christ
The juxtaposition of darkness and light has inspired poets, philosophers, artists, and writers for millennia. We think of darkness in terms of evil, or perhaps – especially if we have been through this experience – a sort of holy darkness, in which God hides Himself in the soul for a time of purgation. And light always reveals the truth. It warms, illuminates, enlightens, shines.
We are a people of light, yet we do live in the darkness of sin. Even if the Light has been quieted in us or perhaps extinguished altogether, we are His beloved sons and daughters. Lent reminds us of God’s mercy and that it is always available to us when we turn to Him, again and again, with sincerity of heart.
It’s important to remember that God never makes mistakes in His creation – including His creation of you. You are His handiwork. He has molded and shaped and fashioned you. Don’t be discouraged. Bask in the light of God’s generosity and believe with confidence that He longs for you to know His joy.
“Faith and love define an attitude of soul and decisive orientation of life. To love darkness is to shut oneself up in the darkness forever, just as to believe in the light means to be attached to light until death.” (Father Ceslaus Spicq, O.P.)
Sometimes Lent reminds me of everything dull and dismal. Most people I know carry heavy crosses already and are immersed in a cruel, dark world. Why, then, should I consider even more darkness or taking it on?
One day You spoke to my heart. You said, “I suffered the darkness for you. Will You console me with your own burden of darkness?” It convicted me, pierced my soul. How can I deny You this when You never put conditions on Your love for me?
It’s true that I long for the light – for You, the Light – yet am swimming in a sea of sin, my own and others’. I am learning, though, that to be a Resurrection person, a person of Light, means I stop focusing on all that is dark and brooding and despondent. I must be attached to You, the Light, in every circumstance – good or bad, easy or arduous. That is how I will attain true union with You one day in heaven.
“People love the truth for the light it sheds, but hate it when it shows them up as being wrong.” (St. Augustine of Hippo)
What is done in darkness will be seen in the light. Lord, there are so many people who twist truth into false light that is more palatable than actual Truth. You are the Truth. But when I share You with others, they turn away. They ignore me, “unfriend” me, even purposefully ostracize me.
I play the role of hypocrite at times, too – widening my phylacteries of gossip and enlarging my tassels of accomplishments and accolades. I collect the good works, yet somehow neglect to take out the plank in my own eye and instead focus on the splinter in everyone else’s.
It’s easy to see truth – to see You as Truth – when I don’t have to look to far within myself. But I know that confronting the reality of my own sinfulness is the only way I will become a new creation. It’s precisely by allowing You to penetrate my darkness that I will be transformed into a child of Light.
“You must hate your own work, and love the work of God in you.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)
My interior life is in such shambles. When people look at me, they say things like, “Wow, you have such a lovely family” or “You always seem to be exuding such joy.” They don’t know about the depression and discouragement I battle on a daily basis. They don’t understand that it’s cumbersome just to complete menial tasks, like washing dishes or clothes.
And, if I’m honest, I really hate those menial tasks. They feel so unimportant, like drudgery. I’d rather be fulfilling some lofty ideal and “become someone.” Maybe it’s a sense of superiority. Maybe it’s denial or a coping mechanism. But whatever it is, the truth is that I do hate my own work.
Every time I attempt to achieve something without first asking You for Your will, it inevitably falls apart. So what does it mean for me to love Your work in me? Does it mean that, despite the mess I feel inside, I should “count it all as joy,” because you are molding, shaping, chiseling, and pruning me?
Pruning hurts. Chiseling hurts. This necessary annihilation of self is excruciating. But it’s Your work in me. It’s how You create the greatest of masterpieces, if only I allow myself to be malleable – willingly, not begrudgingly – in the mundane and ordinary responsibilities of my life.
“For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Ephesians 2: 10)
My mother once told me long ago, “God doesn’t make junk.” I was grumbling about some aspect of myself I didn’t like – some defect or fault that I felt hindered my progress toward perfection. In essence, I felt like I was made all wrong somehow, that being me was inherently bad.
It’s taken me a long time to truly believe that I am His handiwork and that God is using those very same defects and faults to demonstrate a level of authenticity and spiritual transparency to others who feel as I once did – that they are unworthy, inferior, not good enough.
May they always see You in me and in all I do, Lord, not I in the work or the fruit. Always let it be You.
“The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create.” (Isaiah 65: 17)
If ever I feel I am ruminating too much on the past, I simply dive into Lent with every iota of faith I can muster. It seems, though, that when Lent arrives, my faith is quite frail and fringed. It is in dire need of revival.
So when I read about forgetting the past, I find it refreshing and encouraging. God, You are telling me to run to Confession and hold nothing back, but instead to be entirely honest about my sins. If I do this, You will literally forget everything shameful I have done and all the myriad ways I have rejected or ignored or doubted You.
What is in my future? Rejoicing and happiness! What delight! Is it really possible to attain such sublimity? Yes, my cross is my means of sanctification. Yes, victory can only come by way of my own Calvary journey. But what lies at the end is not more dreadful suffering. It is the fulfillment of every hope and dream of my earthly life. It is perfect happiness with You in heaven.
“That you may not be discouraged, bear in mind that the prize for which you are striving is worth more than all you can ever give to purchase it…Against the assaults of corrupt nature you have God’s grace.” (Ven. Louis of Granada, O.P.)
The prize for which I seek is heaven and total union with You, Lord. But I am so far from this, and I do get discouraged – often on a daily basis. I mope and sulk and brood over every wrongdoing I’ve committed or everything onerous I must do alone or every slight committed against me by another.
Why, then, do I focus on the sufferings of this present moment? It’s one thing for me to live in the here-and-now, to be fully alive in this time and place and to appreciate the hidden blessings of each moment before they vanish forever. But it’s entirely another for me to selectively focus on what I perceive as the daily burdens. When I get discouraged, remind me of the prize and what awaits me at the end of my earthly journey.
“The virtuous man must be nobody’s fool, not even of joy…not even of God…It is better to take the wrong infinity than to renounce the infinite!” (Fr. M.D. Molinie, O.P.)
Lord, I pray I might have such confidence as this! To dream of participating in Your joy and believing without any doubt that You will grant it to me – I can think of no greater way to keep myself focused on the Resurrection. Is it true that I can even experience a foretaste of this joy while I’m still suffering my Lenten journey?
I believe it is. I know that if I place “too much” confidence in Your generosity, You will not be offended. Nor will I receive less than what the depths of my soul truly longs for, which is You – only You.