Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lead, Kindly Light

El Greco: Jesus heals the blind man
The word of God challenges us to always look beyond appearances, and with the gift of faith, discover three realities:
Jesus as the light who illumines the purpose of life;
ourselves as a light to others in our attitude and behavior; and
our fellow human beings as bearers of the light or presence of God,
no matter how hidden that presence may be.

The word of God takes us back over 3,000 years.  King Saul made a mess of things, perhaps like some political dictators today.  God inspired the prophet Samuel to look for another king in a sheepherder’s family.  At first, David is overlooked.  He’s the youngest, the most unlikely choice. Think of great leaders in our country and how unlikely they may have appeared to be.  The unlikely David became king of ancient Israel, with incredible potential for leadership that others didn’t see.

The word challenges us not to stereotype people—not to write them off, so to speak -- but rather to look underneath and beyond appearances to the incredible potential for good that people have, and try to bring out their best qualities by affirming them.

Paul in his letter to the Christian community in Ephesus in Turkey reflects upon light and darkness. Light warms, nurtures, sustains, reveals and cheers.  Light enables us to study, to discover, to behold the wonders of God’s universe.

Blessed John Henry Newman captured Jesus as light in a wonderful poem:
"Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on! ….

Jesus is the light who illumines our pathway into eternal life.  We too are called to be light to people, to let our life shine forth with virtues such as honesty, integrity, responsibility, courage, perseverance, compassion and faith in God.

 In the Gospel according to John, Jesus opens the eyes of this blind man so that he can see reality.  But notice how blind some of the characters in this story were.  The Pharisees were blinded by protocol—how dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath!--blind to the power of God working outside their own religious structures.  The parents too were blinded by fear.

The Gospel author challenges us to see Jesus, through the lens of faith, as the light who illumines the purpose of life.

Thomas Merton wrote about his own search for light in his best-selling autobiography, “The Seven Storey Mountain.”  He corresponded with political movers and shakers and people of different faiths or no faith.  Faithful to his Catholic tradition, Merton was always open to the truth in other religious traditions, especially eastern religions.  He sensed the oneness of God all about him, in all creatures and in all creation.  All were holy.  The invisible light of God in all creatures simply had to be made visible.

Our Lenten task, Merton would argue, is to let the light of God become manifest in who we are so that we become the very likeness of God.

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