In one of my homilies, the upshot of the message cautioned us that we’re at risk of losing our ability to tell the difference between the light and the darkness, and that we need Christ more than ever to show us the light – the light of love and compassion, the light of mercy and forgiveness, and the light of hope and healing. It received a surprising response. Several people asked for copies, and it quickly became the most viewed and shared homily I’ve ever posted online (you’ll find it at vimeo.com/stevemeyer if you’re interested).
As evidence, that homily offered three parallels between life today and the story of Christ’s Passion. Although the homily focused mostly on public and social parallels, I’m restating them here with a spiritual bent to ponder as we walk the inner journey.
First, ambivalence toward truth. “Truth,” Pilate scoffs. “What is truth.” With these words he proclaims truth to be irrelevant. How often do we dismiss our own truth? It’s hard to confront our brokenness, so we often ignore it and/or channel it toward others. Our prejudices and biases, unresolved anger, unforgiven pain, and selfish tendencies are all much easier to ignore than admit. Instead of confronting and dealing with these truths, we often adopt artificial self-images in the hope of convincing ourselves and others that we are not broken, we have it all together. By driving the right car, wearing a certain brand of yoga gear, and posting photos of perfect moments on perfect vacations, we can become the image rather than reveal the authentic self. When we hide or disguise our truth, we have lost our ability to tell the difference between the light and the darkness.\
Second, animosity through law. Rules give us a sense of order and security. They keep us safe in a dangerous, chaotic world. So most healthy adults follow a personal code of some sort – rules that govern our health and wellbeing, our moral compass, and our interaction with others. It’s a good thing, but a tricky thing. Rules and laws can also be used to stand in judgement, make ourselves feel superior, and create walls that separate. They can be used to justify the hurtful and harmful treatment of others. “We have our law,” the people shout to Pilate, “and according to our law, he must die. Crucify him!” I’m reminded of a woman I know who refused to attend her (pregnant) daughter’s wedding “out of principle” and an acquaintance who estranged his own son after finding out he’s gay. Through rule-breaking actions (healing the blind man on the Sabbath, talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, forgiveness of sins), Jesus reminds us that all our laws and rules must serve a higher purpose – fostering love and illuminating spirit. Whenever we use the tools of justice to advance injustice, or when we make the letter of the law more important than love of neighbor, we have lost our ability to tell the difference between light and darkness.
Third, abdication of responsibility. It’s not my problem. Pilate symbolically washes his hands to absolve himself of responsibility, and how often do we do the same? It’s very common for people to project their own unhappiness onto others, and then blame the other. Many marriages have broken up because spouses routinely blame one another for their own inner conflicts. Abusers blame their victims. And disgruntled employees blame their coworkers. Ultimately, true happiness is never the result of the exterior world, it is the expression of the interior self. The spiritually healthy person owns this and accepts full responsibility for his own peace. When we deny our own inner power to foster happiness and create peace, we have lost our ability to tell the difference between light and darkness.
Our journey calls us to wrestle with the tension between light and darkness in ourselves and in the world around us. Ultimately, we all hope to choose the light of Christ – the light of love, the light of mercy, the light of hope. May the weeks ahead shake us awake so we might see and become the flame in the darkness.