lights among the darkness

Lantern in Darkness

Growing up in Denver Colorado, I’ll never forget being part of the hordes of people departing Mile High Stadium after a Broncos game and, without fail, seeing someone holding up a sign reading “John 3:16”.

Today’s Gospel starts with one of the most well-known (and well advertised) passages and finishes with clarity that I had never connected with before this mornings reflection.  It’s not an easy message to take on but it is one that can provide hope and direction.

Gospel - John 3 16-21

Already condemned

There’s a sense of finality with the word “condemned”.  The interesting thing about how Jesus uses is this is that it’s already happened for those who do not believe.  It’s as if it’s not even Jesus doing the condemning but that it took place already.  If it’s not Him, then who?  From what I’ve pieced together from other reading (many of the saints and writers I trust), the non-believer condemns themselves.  They’ve already made the choice and the judgement is simply acknowledging what had already been decided.  The agony Jesus must have felt in the garden, seeing each of these decisions play out…indescribable.

It’s crazy to think that anyone would consciously and willingly prefer darkness to light.  Taken literally, who would actually prefer being stuck in a pitch black room over a warm day on the beach with the sun shining brilliantly?  The key here is in the deeds, the actions.  Jesus indicates that the love for darkness comes from their “deeds being evil”.  It’s in what we do and what we don’t do that defines the choice we make.  I don’t think we willingly and consciously choose darkness, but through our actions and inactions we may be gravitating towards a life in darkness – and the choice we don’t really want to have made.

Choosing the light

The good news is that we do have a choice to make – every day of our lives is an opportunity to make that choice and prove that this was, in fact, our choice.  Thanks to Gods’ infinite love and mercy, it’s not too late.  Choosing light starts with awareness and quickly moves to intention.  Being aware that a choice is to be made (and what our choice is), we need to move to intentionally acting and behaving in a way that provides evidence of this choice.

“…he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.” 

Think of wrought iron.  It’s taking something difficult to work with and through a process of heating, hammering and twisting it’s formed into a pre-designed shape.  We are the iron – our selfishness, our conditioning, our wounds, all of these things contribute to why we’re difficult to work with.  It’s a hard and life-long process to be “wrought in God”, to be formed into Gods’ own image.  To be other Christs.

Choosing the light means we become open to that long and hard process.  We’re willing to let Him work in us to shape us into who He meant us to be.  To rid us from our pride, our vanity, our selfishness.  To heal us from our misled conditioning, our wounds.  The desire for this is our choice, the actions to see it through are the “deeds” that will provide evidence of our authentic choice.

Coastal Sunshine

Climbing the mountain

This process can be likened to the upward climb up a mountain, our own personal mountain of Holiness.  The encouraging and beautiful part is we’re not doing this alone – once we make that choice and demonstrate the desire and willingness to be wrought in God, Heaven leaps to our aid and does that work with us.

Look at many of the saints and at the similarities between them.  There’s a common theme of detachment from the things of the world (St. Francis of Assisi as one of the more extreme examples of this).  Their deeds clearly speak of their choice of light.  Our worldly natures look at this kind of life and immediately think, “Wow, what a drag! How dull! How boring!”.  What we don’t see is their interior and all of the graces they’re given.  We can pick up on their joy and elation at what God is doing in their life.  Is it considered “dull” or “boring” if they’re experiencing the very joy that we so often chase in life through things, entertainment and experiences (and, being honest with ourselves, always left unfulfilled)?

So while the choice implies a harder road – the “narrow road” – all of Heaven unites in doing the work in us along with sustaining us with the needed grace and strength to make the process sweeter.  I have a special devotion to Our Lady and can attest to how big a role she’ll play in this when asked.  Ask her!

What choice do your actions provide evidence for?

In this time of isolation and solitude, take time to reflect on where you’re at in life – what are the things you consider important?  What are your priorities?  Your values?  What actions have you taken that you feel are aligned with what God would have wanted?  What about actions that you know He’d have wanted you to avoid?

Humanity is imperfect so the answers to these questions will never show 100% evidence of your choosing light…but is it 80/20?  70/30?  50/50?  Are you satisfied with it?  Are you wanting to start climbing again and commit to increasing that number of “light evidence”?

Two actions to take up with this awareness:

  1. Decide how/where you can begin to discern which actions will show the right evidence for your desired choice.  Reading scripture, the catechism, and the writings of the Saints all provide a great start – as will time in prayer in genuinely asking for direction and guidance.
  2. Make a habit of how frequently you check in on yourself – asking again the question: “what choice does the evidence of my life indicate I’ve made?”  Use that to either reinforce that evidence or redirect your actions to show otherwise.  When done on a more frequent basis, the opportunity for correction is great and almost immediate.

“Today, you have 100% of your life left” (Tom Landry).  With clarity on what you want to choose and what testimony your previous actions will give, be intentional about where a shift may be required.

Keep climbing.