“I am the Light of the world” (John 9:5).
This weekend, we celebrate Laetare Sunday. Laetare comes from the Latin, and it means to rejoice. Indeed, we are mindful that our Lenten season is over the half-way mark. We rejoice because Easter is approaching imminently, and our liturgical vestments reflect this by the priest and deacon wearing rose this Sunday instead of the mournful color of violet. The Introit of the Mass quotes Isaiah 66: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her! Be joyful, all who were in mourning.” Joy, therefore, permeates this fourth Sunday of Lent.
Since we are now over half-way through Lent, we ask ourselves how well we are doing with our Lenten observances? The Church, in her wisdom, places this Sunday perfectly. The joyful theme breaks up the psychological and spiritual difficulties, as it were, that we can experience during a period of prolonged sacrifice. Simply put, we can easily become weary in our sacrifices because we are not often used to them in such a specific manner. The Church gives us a brief respite, so to speak, on our pilgrimage through Lent to show us that there is, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel. Our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not for nothing. We are encouraged to continue running the race, as St. Paul stated, and to not give up now (1 Corinthians 9:24). Our Easter celebration is in sight!
As far as the light present at the end of the tunnel, we also see in our readings this weekend the theme of light and being able to see clearly. St. Paul and St. John are explicit in their presentations with Jesus as the Light of the world. Light has important spiritual connections. Light was the first thing that God created in Genesis (1:3). From the light, God then created everything in the light. As the very opposite of light, we see Satan; one of his titles, in fact, expressly states that he is the Prince of Darkness. We commonly associate truthfulness and honesty with actions done in the light of day, whereas evil, nefarious actions are often associated with deeds done under the cover of darkness precisely so that no one can see them. When Adam and Eve sinned, for example, they wanted to remain hidden so that they would not be readily visible to God (Genesis 3:10).
Jesus, however, performed His deeds always in the light. He had nothing to hide. In fact, His words and actions were always directed to God the Father. Everything He did was meant to give the Father glory (see John 12:28). We ask ourselves, therefore, as reflections of Christ Himself and part of His Body, the Church, how well do our words and actions openly give glory to the Father? Are there deeds that we prefer under the cover of secrecy and darkness? As St. John explicitly stated in his First Epistle, we are all children of the light because of our baptism (1 John 1: 6-7). Why would we want to go backwards, then, and live like pagans? Our Christian dignity is supposed to be the light to the world. Light shines in darkness.
It is no secret that there is significant and unmistakable moral darkness surrounding us today. As Pope St. Pius V (1566-72) correctly stated, “All the evils of the world are due to lukewarm Catholics.” Pope St. Pius X (1903-14) echoed this same sentiment when he stated that “all the strength of Satan’s reign is due to the easygoing weakness of Catholics.” We are surrounded by Catholics who have long abandoned their faith within the political, legal, entertainment, sports, and media worlds. Unfortunately, such people largely shape society. Such moral devolution has even infected the Church with her own leaders who betray her on a daily basis.
Living within the true light of Christ is particularly difficult in today’s world. So many sectors of society both openly and furtively attack the true faith. The consequences have been ruinous in many lives. By following an easy, culturally Catholic way that really has nothing to do with Catholicism and Jesus Christ at all, many baptized Catholics have shipwrecked their faith without even noticing. It is always easy to follow the crowd. That is exactly what the parents of the man born blind did in the Gospel this weekend. They did not want to offend the religious leaders who were attacking Christ because that would mean that the parents themselves would come under scrutiny and attack. They failed in their defense of Christ. How tragic for them.
Jesus Christ is not a Person who came to make our lives comfortable with politically correct ways to navigate society. He was not interested in following along and approving of practices and beliefs that were popular but wrong. He was not interested in the least of being “inclusive” with error. All of these socially accepted mantas today that demand that we must be “open, accepting, tolerant, and inclusive” according to a libertine moral emptiness translates very often into for the politically correct embracing Catholic today: “I like Jesus okay, but definitely not the Cross.” This new religion that no one may profane today is precisely political correctness manufactured by a godless group. It is an unforgiving religion that shapes the youngest minds present in every school: public, private, and even Catholic. It is a false god that many Catholics have sacrificed to on the altar that once was their own faith and integrity, but now, having both those been long abandoned, they operate under a spirituality of ease, comfort, and their own mal-formed will.
Jesus shows us, however, to those who truly want to see Him today just as the blind man of this weekend’s Gospel did, that He is the only Light and Life of this world. There is no other competition. He does not exist beside some other religious teacher as equal to anyone else. He is the only standard by which we judge our daily life. He is the only barometer, as it were, by which we judge our world. Our relationships all revolve around His very life. To the extent that they truthfully reflect Jesus’ light and life within our own, we thank God for them. To the extent that there is some shadow or darkness in those relationships, we either bring them into His light or we ought to abandon what is unhealthy.
Our temporal and spiritual life with Jesus will always involve some element of His Holy Cross. Genuine disciples and friends of Jesus understand this. They live it. As we continue through Lent, may we see Jesus authentically in our daily life so as to be the persons we have been re-created in His life to be: the light to a world today that in so many ways needs its darkness dispelled. How willing are we to live that vocation each day and what will we have to sacrifice in order to do that well?
May you have a most blessed and holy week!
Fr. Shawn William Cutler
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