Finding one’s way in the dark when there is no light – literally or metaphorically – is not an easy thing. But in fact we rarely have total darkness, often we have just that little bit of light to assist us and allow us to be self reliant and independent of others’ help.
But what about when we have to go forward into the a new unknown reality – where there is no ‘light’ – no past experience to tell us all is well and we have to step out into something that can feel like the dark unknown?
Indeed anyone who has ever been ‘caving’ or any other kind of exploration of those often immense areas deep beneath the earth’s surface – can testify to the reality of ‘total darkness’. I vividly recall a time when as part of a large group we were being conducted on a tour of a vast cave system with its wonderful underground chambers and vivid formations of stalactites and stalagmites – and all this illuminated by a powerfully bright lightening system. But to illustrate just how dark it truly was in the cave’s natural state, the guide said at one stage “I am just going to turn out the lights so that you’ll understand how dangerous it can be down here”. He did so, and I was stunned. I could not see the hand I held in front of my face.
I was surrounded by darkness or more so, by the absence of light itself. I hardly knew any perspective, I could see no one and felt absolutely powerless to find my own way out if it had come to that. I did not know the way and I could not find any path either.
We need light to see if we are to journey along our way, but if we do not have even this, then at least we need a guide to take our hand and to show us the way.
Perhaps this touches into the experience of not just the disciples in today’s gospel, but into the experience of every Christian in every age who contemplates the unknown. And indeed faith in Jesus so often calls us to go forward towards that which we do not yet know, or to further towards that which is frightening of challenging, or to step out into a situation that is act of pure trust.
To go forward even when we are ‘enlightened’ by faith can be a risk. And so often the Christian journey calls us to go forward into what is not known. ‘What will happen if… I forgive the other or I trust in this moment or I dare to ask for forgiveness etc?”
We do not always know these answers, in fact often we don’t know at all. But we can trust that Jesus has gone before us to enlighten our path, that he is present to our every moment guiding us, taking our hand, showing us the way by example, stirring us on through his Spirit, finding us companions for the journey or creating examples for us in the lives of those he has inspired before us.
This is part of the Easter promise. That we are never alone in our journey and that no matter how dark it seems he is there. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.. have faith in God; have faith also in me… I will come back again and take you to myself…I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia. He currently serves on the General Council and is stationed in Rome.