January 2005

 

Where does the Light lead? ©

From the beginning of time, God has cared for his people and has made every effort to protect us from harm. Indeed, much of sacred scripture can be seen as a long history of God working to keep us from destroying ourselves, personally or collectively.

God has offered all the help that we might need in order to keep our steps firmly planted on the road to freedom and true joy. Even though, at times, we have stubbornly strayed from this path, he has found countless ways to remind us of the purpose and direction of our journey.

Yes, we have strayed, one generation after another. Our wandering has often taken us into dark and even perilous places. Yet, each time, God has reached out to us and offered guidance so that we could rejoin the safer road that leads to peace and joy as only God can provide.

The prophet tells us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Is. 9:1) At first this was a faint light …as held by the prophets of ancient times.

Then the fullness of that light was revealed: “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” says the psalmist. (Ps. 27: 1) Our experience of that light, though fleeting, represented freedom from fear and liberation from all that is unreliable or unwholesome.

This experience was fleeting because soon after, that great light was mixed with lesser lights and these produced confusion. The energy for these lesser lights comes from the Satan, also called the Evil One, the prince of illusion. One of his names, of course, is Lucifer, which means “light-bearer”, now bearer of lesser and distracting lights.

The problem of evil is that it carries just enough light to confuse us. Scripture also tells us about the sources of confusion that we have faced along the way.

Paul warns against these pitfalls. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he writes, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters …that there be no divisions among you, but that you may be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (1Cor.1: 10)

Error in judgment, which we call sin, are often the cause of these divisions. They occur because we are inclined to place ourselves at the centre of things. We are vulnerable to the seduction of lesser lights because they appear to be more colorful and exciting.

In scripture, we find many instances of God reminding us of the danger lurking behind these lesser lights. We are urged to turn our attention from them.

The Gospels remind us that Jesus has called us to repent, which means to turn from that which separates us not only from the One Light, but also from one another who are children of the Light: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,” writes the evangelist Matthew. (Matt.4: 17)

Heaven has come near in the form of a great light that represents truth, wisdom and love. That Light is with us still …it is God’s Holy Spirit.

Just as in the days of the Magi, we are invited to follow a great light. Jesus said, “Follow me.” (4: 23) He urges us still to follow the Light of his Holy Spirit.

But while most of us would agree that God’s truth is meant to lead our way, few spend much time wondering about the direction in which we are being led. The answer lies in Scripture. Where did Jesus go when he spoke these words found in Matthew’s Gospel?

We are told, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

If we read the on,, we see that he went to the mount where he would proclaim wonderful news that we call the Beatitudes.

Jesus leads us in Truth and Love. Jesus teaches truth and acts on love. Jesus teaches truth because he loves, and he loves because it is the only truth worthy of faith.

Christ acted on his faith. That loving action united people …at least until the lesser light of Lucifer confused even the people of his day. From then on, all those who acted outside that love began to divide the body of Christ –no matter how well meaning. Through two thousand years of Christianity, we have wavered between the One Light that unifies and the lesser lights that divide. The Church is one when its focus is Christ in action. The people of God are united when we act as children of the Light, when we are bearers of its good news, when we are agents of its saving grace.

The opposite of light is darkness. Perhaps the most confusing form of darkness is shadow. Shadows break up the light in the way that difference of opinion causes division.

Division is the result of misplaced focus on details rather than the big picture. It is the effect of spiritual myopia.

For the proper outcome to occur, our sight must be fixed on Jesus who reveals to us the Father and is both the beginning and the end of the salvation story – the Alpha and the Omega. We abandon the light of Christ when we focus away from him, from the meaning and from the purpose of our journey in this world, which he leads us through.

Even those working assiduously for unity among Christian churches are often distracted by countless details and articles of faith. Certainly, there is merit in sitting with our sisters and brothers of all denominations and entering into authentic dialogue with a view to working toward the unity among Christian churches. But there is great merit too in praying that the Holy Spirit raise all Christians to a greater consciousness so that we might better see the big picture with Christ-like eyes. While we will always lack his understanding, we can at least strive to gain a better view by rising above petty differences in order to seize the central mission and purpose of true disciples.

What then are the roots of division? We do well to recognize the lesser lights that distracted our attention from the Light of Christ.

The first category of lesser light is Satan and his servants who try to lure us — oftentimes in small measures or with deceptions that resemble the temptations that Jesus faced in the dessert.

The second category of lesser light is what we often call “the world.” Our world is filled with alluring ideas that compete aggressively with authentic Christian values. For evidence of this, we need only take a critical look at the colorful lights that line the busy streets of our city centers.

The third category of lesser light is associated with the church itself. Here, I am certainly not suggesting that there is a plot to draw us away from the Lord but simply that, unless we are very careful, we can confuse the wrapping with the gift …the lamp-stand with the Light. No matter how sacred, these must never become objects of worship.

God has always proposed to us his good news to guide us to true joy, lasting peace and authentic love. Our only assurance of hearing, understanding and living according to that counsel is to focus on Jesus. Nothing must obstruct us from a clear view of Jesus our Christ. Nothing must prevent us from following our Master who teaches and guides us to unity in the Spirit of Truth and Love.

In the end, unity among Christians will come from greater focus on Jesus. This requires greater focus on Jesus both in what he said and what he did, as described in the Gospels. This calls for deliberate focus on Jesus both in our action and in our prayer.

One way of bringing more focus on Jesus in prayer is by devoting ourselves to contemplative prayer. In this regard, it is helpful to note this description of contemplative prayer found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. The mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts.”

Such prayer is the basis of genuine communion because it is centered on what is most basic about Christianity and the Church. A true understanding of the goals and process of communion leads to unity. Communion with God cannot preclude communion within the family of God. And, communion within the family of God does not harbour division.

Let us pray always, indeed let us work always for unity between Christians, unity among the people of God, and unity within all of God’s holy creation. That is God’s will; that is our key to joy, peace and love in our troubled world.

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Father, give us the wisdom and courage to work for unity among Christians. Let us never take our eyes off Jesus, our Lord and Savior who leads us in truth and love. Protect us from, becoming complacent about the divisions that tear at the mystical body of your Son. Rather, light in us the desire to embrace all of your children as true sisters and brothers. Amen.