Once You Were Darkness, Now You are Light
Sunday March 10, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Lent
Reading I (1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a) Reading II (Ephesians 5:8-14)
Gospel (St. John 9:1-41)
In the second reading today, Saint Paul tells us that once we were darkness; now we are light. I think it is important to recognize that Saint Paul does not say: "Once you were in the darkness, and now you are in the light," but rather, he says specifically, "Once you were darkness; now you are light." We are light because we are members of Jesus Christ. And as we heard in the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that He is the light of the world. He is the One who came into this world, into the darkness, and as Saint John tells us, "The darkness was not able to overcome the light." He is the Light.
Because we are members of Jesus Christ, that light shines within us. It is not merely, again, that we are now in the light. We would be in the light if we simply were to look upon Christ from a distance and His radiance would shine upon us. But what has happened is that we have entered into the Light, into the very Person of Jesus Christ, and we have become one with Him. So it is not merely a matter of being in the light; it is being the light itself. This is why Jesus could tell us in other readings that we are the light of the world and that we are the salt of the earth. We are the ones who have to be that in the world - not just to be basking in the light, not just to be soaking up the flavor of the Lord, but rather to allow the Lord to work in us and through us.
In order to do that, of course, it requires that we must be able to know the Will of God. Jesus told us that we have to do the work of God while it is still day, while it is light. This is the only opportunity that we will have to do the work of God in this world, while we are still light in this world. While we are in the state of grace and while we are alive in this world, we have the opportunity to do the work of God. But we have a choice. We can do the works of God or we can do the works of Satan. There really is not any other option. There are lots of people who will point to things of the world and say, "Well, these things are not of Satan; therefore, they are neutral." No, they are not. They are either of God or they are not; it is just that simple. They are either of the light or they are of the darkness, and we have our choice.
The problem for all of us is that we were born with Original Sin, and so those inclinations towards sin are still there. Of course, most of us have plenty of personal sins that we have to address as well. And so there is a strong attachment to sin and there is a strong inclination towards sin. The works of darkness still have quite a tug upon our hearts. When we see those things, and the devil disguises them rather well - Saint Paul reminds us that he disguises himself as an "angel of light" so he presents his works of darkness looking as though they were works of light - the heart is very much attracted to them.
We must be very careful to reject those outright, to be very clear, which means that we have to be able to see clearly. But, unfortunately, we are like Samuel. As holy as Samuel was, when he saw Eliab he said, "Surely, the Lord's anointed is here before me," and the Lord said, "I have rejected him because man looks at the appearance but God looks at the heart." Even in our holiness, most of us are still very much blinded because we look at what we can see with the eyes, not necessarily looking at the heart. None of us is able to see fully the heart of another, but we are able to see the heart of Jesus Christ. We can look at God.
But what we need to be able to do is acknowledge our own physical blindness. In our humanness we are blinded to many things, and because we are blinded to them, we are not entirely responsible for them. It is the point Our Lord was making at the end of the Gospel reading when He tells the Pharisees, "Because you say, 'We can see,' therefore you remain in your sin." Jesus uses the healing of the man born blind to be able to say that those who were blind will now be able to see, but those who think they can see will now be rendered blind.
And so, if we can acknowledge our weakness, if we can acknowledge our own inability to see clearly the difference between light and darkness, between good and evil, then the Lord will allow us to see, not with the eyes of the body but with the eyes of the heart. With the eyes of the soul, we will be able to recognize the difference between the works of God and the works of Satan, between those things that are good and those things that are evil. We will be able to recognize the subtlety of the temptations of the Evil One trying to disguise his works of darkness as works of light.
If we are willing to be light, then the light will shine upon the darkness. Just as if you are going to look for any kind of smudge on a piece of cloth or on anything else, you do not go into a dark room to look for those things; but rather, you bring the piece of cloth close to the light where the light shines brightly upon it and you will be able to see any imperfection that is there. The same is true with us: The closer we grow to God, the more brilliantly the light shines and the more clearly, then, that we are able to see anything that is imperfect. That is the way it must be. We must be able to overcome the weaknesses of the body and the senses that are there, and we must learn to see with the eyes of the soul. We must learn to judge with the judgment of God, not with the judgment of the world.
That means we must allow our physical sight to be blinded so we will be able to open the eyes of the soul that have been blinded by all of the things around us, and be able to see with spiritual eyes rather than with merely physical ones. In order to do that, we must be in Jesus Christ and we must see with the eyes of Christ. In order to do that, we must first will to do it. We have to want it, and we have to want it desperately - not just to say, "Wouldn't it be nice to be able to see with the eyes of Christ? Wouldn't it be a good thing if we were able to do that?" That is not enough. We have to make the decision and say, "I will do this! This is what is most important to me: to be so united with Jesus Christ that He will live in me and through me and that He will shine, the light will shine through me, and I will see with the very eyes of Christ." Only when we choose it will we do what is required to obtain it - to do the work of God, to be so deeply in prayer, united with Jesus Christ, that we will become Christ.
It is already there; we are already part of Christ, members of Christ. He already lives in us and through us if we are in the state of grace. The question is whether we are willing to allow it to happen. Are we blocking the light? Or are we willing to allow the light to be in us and shine through us? That choice is entirely ours. It will not be forced upon us. We have to choose it. We have to choose Him. And so we need to ask ourselves: Am I willing to place myself before Him every day in prayer? Am I willing to let go of everything that is not Jesus Christ so that the light of Christ will shine in me and through me? Am I willing to reject the things of the world in order to choose the things of God? Am I willing to walk away from the things that the devil has placed before me that seem so good because they bring pleasure, they bring consolation physically, they bring entertainment, they bring comfort, but they kill the soul? Am I willing instead to choose Jesus Christ and His Cross and His way, the only way that leads to life?
It is not an easy choice. It should seem obvious to us when we say, "Are we going to choose the devil or are we going to choose God? Are we going to choose light or are we going to choose darkness?" If it were that easy we would all know what to choose. But because the devil obfuscates everything, puts it into a fog and makes it difficult, presents the darkness as the light, it becomes difficult for us to see it. So we need to make a very serious choice to choose Jesus Christ, to choose the light, and to unite ourselves to the light. And that is not just a generic thing of saying, "Yes, I want to be part of the Lord. I want to follow Jesus." It means entering into the depths of prayer every day. It means ridding ourselves of the works of darkness so that we can do the works of the One who sent us, to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam - the one who is sent, you and me, the apostles of the Lord. That is what it means to be sent: to be an apostle, to bring the light out into the darkness because the darkness will not overcome it.
Are we willing to do that? It means no longer judging by appearance because that is the way the devil will present it. It looks good, but we need to look at the heart, to see with the eyes and the heart of Jesus Christ, to do the works of the One who sent us, to be the light of the world, to be the light in the darkness - and the darkness will not overcome it.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.