Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.—Psalm 119:105 (NABRE)
Original piece by Ray Fragapane on Unsplash.
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God is Light
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.—1 John 1:5-10 (RSV2CE)
Light is used throughout the Bible to explain God himself or God’s qualities, and typically to contrast the darkness of evil. Darkness is the partial or total absence of light, so the more distant we are from God, the more in-the-dark we are. Naturally, in the dark, we are unable to clearly see things as they truly are.
“[God is light] means that God is infinite goodness, purity, and truth. [Darkness] stands for all things evil and erroneous that are churned out by the devil (Jn 3:19-21). Fellowship with God is impossible unless believers live in the light—loving as God loves and staying pure from sin as God is pure (1 Jn 1:6-7). This black-and-white vision of the world is also shared by the Jewish authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, who made similar contrasts between spiritual realities in terms of light and darkness.”—Dr. Scott Hahn & Curtis Mitch, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament
If we willfully and knowingly dwell in the darkness, we will be in for a shameful judgment after our death when these things are brought to the light, as Jesus himself warns us:
“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”—Luke 12:2-3 (RSV2CE)
If we are a disciple of Christ, even if we find ourselves surrounded by darkness, it cannot overcome us. By God’s grace, we can be a source of light—by the power of the Holy Spirit—a lamp that scatters the dark, shining truth and love upon the confusion and hatred while casting luminance towards the infinite light of God.
Darkness’ Reaction to Light
If those in the dark refuse to step into the light, their reaction is to either retreat further into the dark or to violently charge the lamp in a desperate attempt to snuff it out. We saw this attempt on Christ multiple times in the Gospels, eventually culminating in his Passion, which he permitted when he said in the Garden of Gethsemane to his accusers, “This is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:53, RSV2CE). We also see it done to his followers, such as Saint Stephen when “they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him” (Acts 7:57, RSV2CE), and Saint James the Greater when “Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church [and] killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2, RSV2CE).
While they may snuff the lamp from a natural sense (i.e., killing the person), the disciple’s lamp was pointing towards the light of God, in union with the light of God, and for the glory of God. So, while it may seem to the shortsighted that they killed the light, they really just fully united the pilgrim lamp to the infinite light of the Holy Trinity through martyrdom. There’s no outcome here where darkness comes out on top; those in the dark must either retreat further into the dark, or give up their ways and enter the light.
Persevering through Dark Times
Amidst even the darkest moments of our life, we can hold fast to the light within us, the Holy Spirit, and fix our eyes on the light of Christ, walking towards that beautiful glow of God the Father, even if the light appears, from our limited perspective, to be but a dim glow in the distance. We must keep our eyes on the prize, and not pay any mind to the temptations that lurk all about us in the dark.
The reality is that God’s light is not a dim glow; it is immeasurably, superabundantly radiant and, as St. John the Evangelist reminds us, the darkness does not overcome the light.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.—John 1:1-5 (RSV2CE)
PS – A nice piece of added symbolism here is that the photo was taken in Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City.