Be Not Afraid: Light and Peace in a Troubled World
There is so much going on this weekend. A new president has been inaugurated. Protests of his presidency, especially marches for women’s rights, have swelled across the nation and on all seven continents. The March for Life is taking place in Washington, D.C. as an annual protest against Roe v. Wade and a constant prophetic call to recognize the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. In the same vein, the bishops of the United States have called on all Catholics to join in a novena for life. If you aren’t feeling the tensions of a divided America right now, please tell me how you’re doing it!
In times of darkness, what is needed is hope. Our Sunday readings come to the rescue again. Whether it is the president we are worried about; or defending women in a culture that continues to devalue women, women’s work, and women’s perspectives; or protecting unborn children who have no other voice than ours; or worrying about the fragmentation of our society along racial, political, and economic lines – whatever it is, we are clearly in the darkness in some ways. And so Isaiah reminds us of God’s ultimate victory:
“Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.”
I desperately need to hold onto that hope right now. Are you feeling the gloom as well? What is it that worries you? Maybe I didn’t list your concern above. Are you distraught about climate change? Or maybe it is a wave of secularism that is coming over the country? Or the opposite: a wave of religious fundamentalism? Maybe it is violence or the fear of war and terrorism. There are so many different forces at work in our culture right now that I would be surprised if something isn’t worrying you. Still, hold onto hope! “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!” And remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Then, take to heart the words of the Christophers: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
What candle can you light today? In whatever darkness you find yourself, how can you bring the light of Christ, even if it is only a dim flicker at first? St. John used this image of light to describe Christ. He wrote, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Nonetheless, we must endure the darkness even as we struggle to “go, set the world aflame” as St. Ignatius of Loyola instructed. Nothing is more soothing for the soul in this situation than to read today’s Psalm slowly and prayerfully. Join me, will you?
“The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
…I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.”
Some Orthodox Christians just celebrated the Theophany (or Epiphany), a feast known from ancient times as The Feast of Lights. It is the great manifestation to the world of that defining truth which Christianity upholds and shares: Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, is also God-with-us: Emmanuel! St. Pope John Paul II wrote in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, “[God] is not the Absolute that remains outside of the world, indifferent to human suffering. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us, a God who shares man’s lot and participates in his destiny… [T]he crucified Christ is proof of God’s solidarity with man in his suffering. God places Himself on the side of man.”
Encouraged by the Lord’s promise and the Lord’s presence, knowing we bring the light of Christ into a world in darkness, let us heed the oft-repeated words of Scripture and of Pope John Paul II: “Be not afraid!”
Editorial credit: Rena Schild / Shutterstock, Inc. for the pro-life image.
Editorial credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock, Inc. for the Pope John Paul II image