Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Easter
…indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed…
My family watched the livestream of the Easter Vigil from the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd because my 8-year-old wanted to watch the Liturgy of Light and to hear the readings; furthermore, we haven’t watched Mass celebrated by the Archbishop in a while. I gave a very simple explanation of how the world is now going to be in the light after having been in darkness. Finally, Light and Life will triumph over Darkness and Death. Honestly, I have no idea how much they really understood. My 5-year-old went to bed after the Liturgy of Light, and the 8-year-old conked out after the readings.
Light throws everything into sharp relief. Evil runs and hides in the dark; it cowers in fear of being discovered and defeated, which it will eventually be. There is a song by the band Fireflight called ‘Unbreakable’, with the lyrics, “Where are the people that accused me? The ones who beat me down and bruised me? They hide just out of sight; can’t face me in the light. They’ll return but I’ll be stronger“. According to the band, this part of the song is based on the woman accused of adultery. The scribes and Pharisees were about to stone her in accordance with the Law. Jesus was asked his opinion on this, to which he replied that the person who was sinless should go ahead and start the stoning. To this, all the men eventually left without a single stone being thrown.
Obviously the men there were not sinless. I also cannot help but wonder where the adulterous man was because, of course there was a man involved! Was he one of the crowd baying for the woman to be stoned? But let’s not go off on that tangent now. Jesus was the sinless one who could have cast the first stone, but he did not. He simply told the woman that she was free. That she was forgiven. He told her to sin no more. Jesus brought her into the light. None of the men who had wanted to condemn her was brought into the light — they left (and hid?) holding on to their own guilt and sin. Now she is redeemed, free, and unchained.
Immediately following this account (John 8:12), Jesus goes on to say “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark but will have the light of life”. It is quite clear now that we are to walk and live in the Light, and leave the darkness behind. But how easy, or how difficult is this really? If we are to be honest with ourselves, we very often walk in the gray areas between the light and the dark.
A Gray Area involves a situation that is so complex that it is hard to determine what is the right or wrong course of action to take. And truly, life is one big complexity. We often make excuses for ourselves, or for others, when we make questionable decisions. When we do things that appear contrary to the gospel. When we do things that are forbidden by Church teaching. When we fail to do things that we probably should do, as a Christian. And it would seem that the more vehemently we defend our actions, the closer to the dark we are treading.
I am not condemning this. In fact, I am saying that this struggle is real. We struggle with this all the time for so many reasons. We put ourselves and our loved ones above all else in many decisions we make — is this selfishness or natural instinct? We tell ourselves we do what we do out of love, and that has to count for something, right? It is understandable because we are human, and humans have weaknesses. Also, reality is complicated. So weakness x complication = gray areas. To be clear, morals are a black and white (dark and light) issue, and what is gray are the circumstances we find ourselves in as we worry and fret about the consequences of every possible course of action we can take, and when we attempt to balance a sense of outrage with a respect for all human life.
The other day, I told my 8-year-old that the Russian warship Moskva was hit by missiles and possibly sunk while its crew tried to escape. She asked if the Russian crew were killed. I told her I didn’t know. She said it would be good if they were, so they couldn’t continue to attack and kill innocent Ukrainians. I told her that while we condemn the invasion and killing, we probably should not be wanting or rejoicing in the deaths of the aggressors either. This would make us very similar, wouldn’t it, by wanting death? I once saw an Instagram post by a priest about people saying that Jesus was not above overturning tables and using whips to drive out merchants from temples. But then, Jesus also died on the cross for every last one of us sinners out of love, no matter how heinous the crimes committed. If we are willing to die for others out of love, sure, we can go ahead to condemn them and smite them dead. Otherwise, are we in any position to decide on their fate?
The thing is, while this makes sense logically, I was not entirely sure of being convinced of it myself. Is it not justified to resort to force and violence to defend yourself? And what about the people you read about in the news committing deplorable crimes against innocents, against children? Are we not sickened and enraged to the point of wishing a death penalty or worse on them? And while we grapple with our conflicting emotions, we also have to grapple with our own behaviours that certainly do straddle the gray areas.
Figuring out the right thing to do is difficult. We are told that the right choices are the difficult ones, and that the easy solution is likely the wrong choice. Do we walk away back into the light and hope that things will work out for the best, and that God will come through for us? Or do we take matters in our own hands, and nevertheless trust that God will straighten out those crooked lines we have written in darkness?
What we say, what we believe and what we do rarely overlap. And that is probably the reality we have to live with. One thing is for sure — we are not the ones who judge; and by ‘judge’, I mean judge a person in order to mete out a punishment, not judge actions. Then what is a Christian to do? We have to live in the Light. Ultimately, we do and walk in the Light as much as we can. There is no end to God’s love and compassion, and while it is difficult, we can try to summon that bit of compassion for all the wrongdoers, including ourselves, because we have strayed so far from the Light. We will stray into gray areas. We will stray into the darkness too, because let’s be real. But remember that we do not live by our own strengths, but on the strength of God. Jesus is the Light and he has asked us to walk with him. He will always be there extending his hand to us no matter how much we have fallen. He is always willing to free us from our darkness. All we need to do is have the courage and humility to take his hand and turn back towards the Light.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)
Prayer: Father, help us to see Your light amidst our darkness. Give us the courage and the humility to turn back to You. Grant us Your strength to continue walking in the light.
Thanksgiving: Father, we thank You for the gift of Your Son, the Light of the World, so that the darkness of this world and of our own hearts can be dispelled.