Be a light in the darkness


There’s a story told of a person going to a holy man and asking, “Why doesn’t God do something about all the evil in the world?”

The holy man replied, “God did do something. God created you!”

When we are faced with tragedies and terrorism (most recently the shooting in Colorado), we are tempted to ask similar questions. “Where is God when bad things happen?” That is both the question and the title of my book that I published with Cathedral Foundation Press. My most thorough response is there.

In this short column, I want to take a slightly different angle on that tragedy. Obviously, in those first few days after the shootings, the news was filled with stories about the mass murderer. Our collective response was also predictable. We respond with feelings of shock and horror. Evil grabs our headlines and our attention every time.

What’s easy to miss, however, is all the good that happened at the same time. People threw their own bodies on top of others to protect them. Police arrived, risking their lives to subdue the suspect. Medical personnel and rescue teams saved lives and comforted survivors and their families. Religious services were offered by many. This list could go on and on.

The point I’m making is simple and so easy to miss. One man perpetrated an act of horror. Countless people responded with help, healing and even self-sacrificial love. Good overwhelmed evil that day. Good overwhelms evil every day. However, as I often said on the radio, “God is real and evil is real. However, I think the devil sometimes has a better press agent.” Bad news sells. Good news does not, which of course is why the media in every form is about all the bad stuff.

What can you and I do? We can make a commitment this day and every day to be people of the light. John’s Gospel reminds us that God’s Word was the light that came into the darkness, and “the darkness did not overwhelm it.” A single match can scatter the darkness in the darkest room. If Jesus is the “light of the world,” then you and I are called to be lights in this world.

What we can most often forget is that the same light and love that was in Jesus is now in us. In other words, Jesus gave us his Father to be our Father. He gave us himself to be our Redeemer and Savior and companion on life’s journey. He gave us his Holy Spirit so that we would have the indwelling of God’s own life.

Various religions acknowledge a transcendent God – a God “up there” or “out there.” We spatially identify God. Other spiritualties focus on the indwelling presence of God. They see each of us carrying God within us. Others may have a religion or spirituality that focuses on God as our companion on the way. What is unique about our Christian faith is that we have all three understandings of God. We have God the father “up there” or “out there.” We have Jesus, the Word made flesh as our companion on life’s journey. And we believe in God’s own internal presence: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me,” to quote St. Paul.

Tragedies and terror can cause all kinds of doubts and fears in the best of us. That’s why we need daily to renew our faith in a God who “delivers us from evil,” a God who taught us to lay down our lives for each other, a God who is even stronger than death.

We can use times of great darkness to renew our baptismal vows to be lights in our world. Let’s resolve to overcome evil with good. Each day make it a point to do something loving. And little things do matter. Smile at someone in the store. Call someone you haven’t called in a while. Forgive someone, or at least let go of holding onto some judgment or blame. Put an extra dollar in the poor box. Feed a squirrel or stray cat. Pet the neighbor’s dog even though the barking might drive you half crazy. Decide to love whether anyone else notices or anyone else cares. You see, when you give love, you scatter some of the darkness. When you love, you get to be good news. When you give love away, you also get to keep it. Wanting or waiting to be loved is a source of our misery. Being loving to everyone is the source of constant joy. That’s how God works. That’s how we can work!

Copyright (c) Aug. 9, 2012

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.