January 10, 2020

Pastoral Ministries / Pearlette Springer

The light that shines in the darkness

(This week, we begin a new monthly column featuring leaders serving in the archdiocesan Office of Pastoral Ministries.)

I love the Gospel of John. The Gospel writer begins by letting us know that the Word was there at the beginning with God creating the world—separating the darkness from the light, the water from the land. The Word was there when God created man and woman, partners for life. Years later, the Word became flesh and lived among us. The Word is the light, and that light dwells among us.

The First Letter of John continues with this same concept of light and darkness. But it goes a little further, is more direct, and straight to the point: “If we say we have fellowship with him, while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth” (1 Jn 1:6). In other words, we cannot follow Jesus and live in darkness.

Jesus was once invited to live in the darkness, to choose selfishness, greed, power and control. But Jesus stood up to the darkness: “Get away Satan. … The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him along shall you serve” (Mt 4:10). And the darkness left.

Our history of humanity and as Catholics is full of times we chose darkness instead of light. Humanity and many in the Church stood by for nearly 500 years as hundreds of thousands of black Africans were dragged off the continent, tied down in the bottom of boats, shipped to three continents, then sold like livestock.

Humanity and some members of the Church stood by as hundreds of thousands of people, identified as Jewish, were loaded up on trucks and trains and sent to their death. Today, many stand by and watch children being separated from families. This time it is not a faraway location. It is not the government of a foreign nation. It is us. Unspeakable evil. Unspeakable silence. Unspeakable darkness.

But God continues to give us a choice. We can choose to live in darkness, complain about all the evil in the world, and do nothing. Or we can choose to live in the light. We can choose to change our lives to align with the will of God. We can choose to put on the hands and feet of Christ. And we can choose to stand up to the evils in the world.

How do we choose the light over the darkness? By engaging vertically with God and horizontally with God’s creatures and creation.

Choose to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul. This means spending time every day in prayer and contemplation. It is reading and reflecting on God’s word. It is spending time in prayer and presence with and within the community of believers, and attending and fully participating in Mass. It means utilizing the sacrament of reconciliation.

Choose to love our neighbors as ourselves. God has not abandoned us. God still lives and dwells and journeys with us.

God can be found in the neighbor who says “hello” every morning. God is in the person who hands us our coffee through a drive-through window. God dwells in the homeless person standing at the corner, asking for money. God is in every person we encounter at work.

Grounded in our faith, in the knowledge of God, and in the love of God’s people, we choose to act. We can use our God-given talents to address the injustices in our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our nation.

When we engage with and stand up for God’s people, we engage with God. When we engage with God through and because of the love of others, we are choosing light over darkness.

(Pearlette Springer is the coordinator of Black Catholic Ministry in the archdiocese. She can be reached at pspringer@archindy.org.)

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