Ax + Sword: Lenten Commentary 2018
2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23
Sometimes the obvious symbols of life can change who we are. I am convinced of universal truths of our world. Studying ancient religions, mythology, the human condition, etc. have all revealed to me the obsession of human beings with the power of light and darkness. Whether its Plato’s Allegory of the Cave or a candle-lit dinner, light and darkness are powerful symbols.
First, the reality of light and darkness. We live in a world with light. It’s the first “thing” God makes space for, and the “sun, moon, and stars” will be first “physical things” God actually creates on the fourth day. So clearly, God is all about light and its effects on the rest of creation. The sun still rises and sets throughout the day and the stars and moon are seen at night. A wonderful way to mark the changing of times and seasons.
Second, the symbolism of light and darkness. Light good, darkness, bad. Seems to make sense for generations of humans who had to live by the light of day and who created “light” from fire and thus were more human by it. What is humanity, but a reality that survives because of our ability to control and manipulate and make “light.” Without light, we are literally and figuratively left in the dark. We cannot escape our daily language surrounding this mystery.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is light. Jesus is many things, the Word or Logos, the Son of Man, the great I Am. And Light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light… Why? Because their works were evil. Light does many things. It’s mostly for our good, but it can expose what is wrong as well.
What is our relationship with light today? Are we using it to stay up late at night and do more work? Do we turn off the light to hide in the darkness of sin or doubt? Are we obsessed with the simplistic power of the light switch that makes us feel like we control the universe? How many hours of the day do we spend staring at computer screens, tablets, phones, and TVs? Do we respect the light we have and acknowledge the darkness is destroys?
I would prefer to live a life completely in the light of God, but moments of darkness always seem to find their way into my life. As I grow in my own spiritual understanding, I am more drawn into the changing of times and seasons and the way in which God designed us to mark these changes. Although the government decided when we should adjust our clocks, it is God who makes the sun rise and set each day. Nothing compares to the beauty of sunrise and sunset.
Our lives, then, must be lived in the light. We are all called to live in the light of Christ. This light is entrusted to us always, yet we sometimes let is fade, it can always be rekindled. The light is not our own, but it is ours to share.
In a few weeks during the Great Vigil of Easter, I will take the Paschal Candle and light it from a holy fire. Some might say this is as pagan as it gets, but I see the humanity in it. I imagine the first humans who made fire, how they feared and respected it, but also learned to use it to bring life and light into our world. I imagine warmth on cold nights. I imagine a sense of security and peace. This light is shared and passed around. Strangers share the literal light candle by candle. The softness of the candle light illumines the darkness and makes us all looks glorious during the night.
Maybe that’s the light that leads us on. Maybe Christ, our Light, lives in us. Maybe our work in this world is not our own creation, but to share that light with others who might be in darkness and let them share their light with us. Maybe it’s not so obvious anymore.
Fr. Ross Miceli, M.Div., S.T.B., is pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Kersey and Campus Minister at Elk County Catholic in St. Marys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or comments.