Sunday, April 3, 2011

“Being in a condition of darkness …”

Lately, the global picture had not all been that rosy. With the aid of technology, things that happen in other parts of the globe seem to be happening right in your own backyard. We had been made aware of the occurrence of quite a tall order of natural disasters, political unrests and social chaos! There had been earthquakes; volcanic eruptions; tsunamis; flooding, cold and blistering winters! 

As far as political unrests, well, the media had been giving us updates on the peace and order in many countries and the derivative social chaos they have imposed on people. And the list could go on and on; enough for those affected to wonder when they will end or for others, whether the world is about to end! For most of those who had been seriously impacted by these adversities, their lives seemed to have plunged into a state of disarray; into a condition of darkness, in fact, quite literal in most cases.

Against this backdrop, a fitting question that could be asked is this. "Being in a condition of darkness, what do you most desire?" The appropriate response, of course, is “Light”. Under no circumstances would you opt not to want light! Of course, being in that adverse condition when you could neither foresee nor avoid danger, that which you would most desire is a full restoration of sight that light can provide. We typically would want to be brought from darkness to light. Of course!

In what is referred to as the Prologue, the first chapter of John’s Gospel approaches the mystery of Incarnation in a different way. It does not have the Nativity scenes we thoroughly enjoy when reading Matthew and Luke. John seems to talk “Greek” especially to those who are uninitiated in the world of the abstract.  John talks of the coming of the Son of God as that of the Word becoming flesh who dwelt among us. It also talks about the Incarnate Word as the Light whose purpose is to enlighten the very world he was sent to but a world that “knew him not."

The gospel lesson for this 4th Sunday in Lent invites faith communities to explore the theme of light; it being a very potent imagery of Jesus Christ! The following are the highlights of this story, found in John 9:1-41.

Jesus, while on his way to a certain place, had occasion to meet a visually challenged man who had that impediment since birth. Soon thereafter, a question was asked of Jesus with the intent of trying to ascertain whose fault it was that this blind man had this unfortunate handicap. Under a theological mindset that regards physical abnormality as a derivative of sin, Jesus’ disciples wanted to find out whose sins caused it. And because he was blind from birth could it then be his parents’ fault rather than his?

True to his teaching skill, Jesus used this very occasion to teach his disciples that it was neither the blind man's parents nor his own nor anyone else's fault. His blindness was not the resultant effect of someone’s sins. It was however something that could be used to teach a greater truth. Jesus declared himself as the light of the world and it was to be his purpose to shed light on those who are in darkness.

Blindness, being a serious condition of darkness, has to be rid of and it was but logical for Jesus to cure the man of his handicap. With mud and saliva as the raw matter, a miracle then took place and a radical one, indeed. The blind man was brought from darkness to light; from blindness to sight and ultimately from darkness of non-belief to the insight of full discipleship.

This story was used by John to teach his community about God's gift: the gift of sight, a special kind of sight that frees people from their darkness of sin. It was a gift of restoration!

It is in this regard that this story becomes our story too. In many respects we fit in the shoes of that blind man. While we may have a perfect 20/20 vision, spiritually, however, we may find ourselves in a "condition of darkness". Like the blind man in his condition of darkness, we too are in a similar darkened condition in the way we live out our “Christian-ness” as when we just drift in life without any sense of direction at all; as when we drive on the freeway and just drive with no destination in mind. We are in a "condition of darkness" when we stumble and bump into the pitfalls of sin and find ourselves drifting farther from our God.

The good thing about it is that there comes a rock-bottom in all of these. The "conversion moment” comes  and unfolds before our very eyes and we yearn once more of that condition when we could actually foresee and avoid danger and therefore safely live out our discipleship guided by the "light of the world".  

Being in that condition, what else could we desire but light? And yet the sad reality is that not everyone wants to be brought from darkness to see the light by which God's people work. And that’s the puzzling thing.  It just doesn’t compute! They simply refuse to undergo that form of metamorphosis.

The church teaches us that sin brings us farther away from God. We have been consistently reminded, as we do on this season of Lent, that we need to abandon those acts which may sever our relationship with God and the Church, the Body of Christ. Conversely, we are also reminded that we should intentionally bring ourselves back closer to Him. To be reconciled with God is what repentance and forgiveness do to us.

This, however, is easily said than done. Why? It's because sin is almost always presented in some glittering wrapping materials characterized by ease, comfort and convenience. This makes sin likeable; this makes sin palatable to our senses; it makes sin desirable and consequently, it makes it very difficult to willfully desire that we be brought from darkness back to light. What needs to happen, however, is to break away from that sinful condition which, as I’ve pointed out, becomes more preferable at times.

I assume you might have heard this classic illustration about how painful it could get for someone to be suddenly brought into the light. It’s the thing that triggers those who had been accustomed to their dark room to yell at you when you turn the lights on. They experience a sudden discomfort and the quickest way to resolve it is to tell you to turn the lights off. In other words, it might appear that it may have seemed better for them to remain in darkness and stay comfortable.  If we juxtapose this experience with the ones in Christian living, this means that there’ll be utter discomfort for those who would be willing to be brought from darkness to light.

And the beauty about this possible pain is that we have the option to have it or not. We are given the choice to either remain in a "condition of darkness" or to reach out for the “light" which is what we ought to desire most thus ending our groping in the dark.

We need not remain in the darkness of our choosing. The "light of the world" is before us, willing to transform our condition of darkness into a state of brightness. All we need to do is to reach out for it. It means that even if you got plunged into this phase in your life in the darkness of your own making that you don’t have to be bound by its shackles. Instead, you can be set free from it, and begin to live a restored life in a sighted world. This, however, has to be done of your own free will and accord!

Should we muster all the courage to commence the shift, make no mistake about it that there’ll always be that hard climb. The transition will be difficult since as you could have gotten used to the darkness of sin and favored the “condition of darkness" for its glittering wrap; its ease and cheap comfort and convenience. I know we are bidden otherwise. We are invited to come into the Light and get used to the warm glow of God's love.

So, being in a condition of darkness, what do you most desire? 

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