Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Those of you who live in a rural area perhaps are more familiar with dark nights. But those of us who live in an urban area, as I do, cannot fully appreciate the wonder of a dark night.
The relationship between darkness and light is somewhat ironic. You cannot really appreciate the glory of light until you’ve also traveled into the midst of darkness. You cannot see the light of the star until first experiencing the darkness of an empty sky. In our world where the glare of artificial lights pollutes the night, it is hard to understand the drama and the quiet and the power of the real darkness. It is hard to catch the sense of salvation which comes from the ignition of a light.
If you open a refrigerator door today, you have more light in that fridge than in an entire 18th century ball room. The darker the darkness, the more visible the light – even from a tiny candle. You need to have light in order to see, you need light in order to find your way home, or wherever it is you are going. Light means hope, illumination, understanding, less darkness. Have you ever considered that the words “delight” or “delightful” are rooted in the word light?
Light was God’s first creation [Genesis 1:3]. And in today’s Gospel reading from John, we hear Jesus declare himself to be, “The light of the world.”
One of the many challenges that John’s Gospel presents is the use of metaphorical language. One has to work hard at interpreting the many images in order to understand what Jesus really means. If you read through the Gospel you’ll note that on several occasions, the author offers parenthetical explanations to clarify what Jesus meant as opposed to how his followers, or his opponents, understood him.
There are many forms of darkness in our lives. There is darkness where there has been a disintegration of relationships, be it with employer or spouse, between parents and children. Darkness can be understood as something internal, personal, mental, emotional, or spiritual – illness, guilt, fear. Darkness can be grief or longing. Darkness can also be social, as individuals struggle with institutions – those that either do or do not educate them, those that hire them and fire them, protect or do not protect them.
In the darkness – in the absence of light, there is also an absence of hope.
At this time in history, we are living in a society utterly divided by partisan politics, by contentious rhetoric, by the color of the state, the color of our skin, the language we speak, and by our stubborn refusal to even hear the other side and to try and work together for a common good. The anxiety of the pandemic has intensified those divisions.
Jesus comes to bring light in the midst of our darkness, to open our eyes and give us sight to both see and honor him as the Savior of the world.
Our challenge as Christians and as the Church is to demonstrate to the world that God is active in our world and we are those through whom God shares the message that Jesus is the light that reveals and heals.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
I’m reminded of the chorus of an old, familiar hymn, “Jesus, the Light of the World.”
We’ll walk in the light, beautiful light,
come where the dewdrops of mercy are bright.
Shine all around us by day and night,
Jesus, the Light of the world.
We are called to share that light that Jesus brings, not just for the sake of those others who need to hear the Gospel, but in order that our own faith may grow and flourish. When we share our thoughts and ideas and our faith – often times we are the one who is perhaps most changed in the encounter, regardless of the effect it has on anyone else. It forces us to better understand what we believe and how we might more clearly communicate it with others.
The world needs us. It needs the hope we offer, the food we share, the relationship with God that we have entered into. The world needs to hear the message of salvation that God brings through us, to hear the word we have about our unity in the family of God, and about how God loves us and wants to help us be whole.
The world needs us. It needs to see that we are all related, and that our relationship is one of peace, of God’s righteousness, and God’s love.
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