1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Bishop Daniel shared with me an interesting story once about his time in Italy serving as Vice Rector of the North American College. This is where many of the priests from our Archdiocese are formed in Rome.
His story was about the seedier side of our human nature when met with the light of Christ. And how we can sometimes be blind to our own sinfulness.
The Vice Rector’s role is similar to a Chief Operating Officer at a corporation. The CEO is the Rector, his boss.
One day around Christmastime, Bishop Daniel was invited to lunch by one of the contractors doing construction work on campus. It was a thank you lunch for the opportunity to do business with the college. The two went to a fancy restaurant and had a nice meal and conversation.
As they were saying their goodbyes, the man told the now Bishop how he looked forward to working with him more in the future, then handed the Vice Rector what he thought was a Christmas card as they parted.
When Bishop Daniel later opened the envelope, he found 5-thousand dollars in cash inside.
Bishop Daniel didn’t hesitate. He immediately reported what had happened to his boss, the Rector, who pulled out stationary to write a thank you note to the man for his very generous public donation.
What was meant to be something done in the shadows (a bribe) was brought into the light of Christ.
The contrasts of light and darkness in human thought and actions can also be seen day and night, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, divine and demonic.
Shouldn’t all our thoughts and actions come into the light of Christ, never ever remaining solely in the shadows of our own human hearts?
How many of us feel convicted when all our thoughts and actions are held up to the light of Christ?
The time we got angry in traffic and raged against the motorist who cut us off? The time we scolded a teenage waitress for getting our order wrong? The time we said or did something hurtful or rude to someone we love, or a colleague, or even a total stranger? The time we loaded our carts with dozens of roles of toilet paper? (What’s that all about anyway?)
In many ways, we humans can at times act as if we are blind to the teachings of Jesus. And we need Jesus to help open our eyes to our own sinfulness – our fear-driven actions, our anger, our lust, our pride, our self-reliance instead of a reliance on God for everything.
This is what St. Paul is talking about to the people of Ephesus today: “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light.”
When we live as children of the light, we are no longer blind to our own sinfulness. We become self-aware and understand our need for redemption and forgiveness. Thank goodness for Lent and especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
People in Jesus’ day saw the blind man as being sinful because he was blind. An act of nature like blindness was seen as the sinfulness of the person’s parents or even the sinfulness of the blind person him or herself.
Jesus turns this logic on its head.
Jesus reminds us that the light of the world came to help us see ourselves better and call us to seek repentance.
We live in a world where many run around pointing their fingers at the sins of other. This is what the Scribes and Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. Jesus wants us to not do that, but instead take ownership of our own sinfulness. And ask him to help open our eyes to this reality.
Nothing should be done in darkness. “Everything exposed to the light becomes visible.” Bishop Mueggenborg understood that.
My sisters and brothers, we are all called to live as children of the light.
During these weeks in Lent when we focus on the scrutinies we are hearing from the Gospel of John.
Here’s something interesting to ponder: The words “faith” and “belief” never appear as nouns in John’s Gospel. These words always appear as verbs. Our faith and our belief in the Son of God must always be put into action.
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul’s uses the word to “walk as children of the light,”
I read something recently that hits on this point.
Here’s what it said,
“Being rude is easy. It does not take any effort and is a sign of weakness and insecurity. Kindness shows great self-discipline and strong self-esteem. Being kind is not always easy when dealing with rude people. Kindness is a sign of a person who has done a lot of personal work and has come to a great self-understanding and wisdom.”
So, who do we choose to be?
When I think of this quote I’m always reminded of the actor Tom Hanks. Talk to anyone who knows him and they will tell you Tom Hanks is one of the kindest, most considerate human beings you’ll ever encounter. It’s why he rarely plays a bad guy in the movies. The shoe wouldn’t fit.
Many of you may have heard, Tom Hanks and his wife have tested positive for the Coronavirus, COVID-19. He and his wife are doing fine while in quarantine in Australia.
But his contagion of the virus got me to thinking. Perhaps what the world needs most is a contagion to kindness, a contagion to consideration, a contagion to honorable actions done in the light of Christ.
Christians who remain in the Light of Christ always shine brightest in the darkest moments of history.
On this Laetare Sunday, let us reflect on our relationship with Jesus. Let us work toward right relationships with God and with others. And let us rejoice and thank God for God’s abundant Mercy in our lives when we fail to live as children of the light.