Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Letting the Light of Christ Shine Within Us
In so many ways the axiom, ‘the brighter the light, the greater the shadow’ is seen:
success can blind us to our weak spots; victorious we can forget we are vulnerable. While we need to keep the light before us when we walk in shadow times, we also must be aware that our brightness can make it difficult to see in the shadows what can do us harm.
Jesus tells his parable to those who believe in their own self-righteousness. A shadow has crept into their lives. The Pharisee recognizes the other man at prayer and knows him to be a tax collector. In judging he is not aware that he also judges himself. His shadow blinds him to the good quality of the tax collector – humility. Something that the Pharisee needs in his own life
Righteousness is being one with God’s will for us, listening and responding to God’s unfolding plan. But self-righteousness seems to obscure God’s light by our own. The 1961 award winning play by Paddy Chayefsky, "Gideon", presents an Old Testament example of our good blinding us to the good of God. Gideon, who is voted the least likely to succeed becomes a great military leader. It is a story of intimate friendship. God loves and has chosen Gideon. God, who would be Gideon’s best friend, who accepts him with all his limitations, enjoys nothing more than sitting and talking with him. In the end, dressed in a golden uniform and truly blinded by success, Gideon can no longer see God. The ending so sad, as God says to Gideon, ‘I am right here where I always am. Can’t you hear me or see me?" Gideon sort of hears something, vaguely sees a glimmer, but dismisses it. He is busy being important.
Hosea keeps us on our Lenten journey. We walk with Our Lord with whom we have a relationship established in Baptism which we will renew at Easter. If we imitate the humble tax collector, we may hear in our hearts, ‘Come back to me. Like the spring rains that fall upon the earth, with the certainty of the dawn, the Lord is coming to us.’ This refreshing, welcoming and shadow dispelling light shows us that love is what God wants, not sacrifice. Our successes and good works God does not need. But all of these good things seen in the light of Our Lord, flowing from his guidance, made possible with his help, and done by hearts that are in dialogue, these God welcomes because they flow from his love.
May the light of Christ burn away self-righteousness. As we move to Easter the words of Hopkins draw us on, ‘let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us’.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, Maryland.