Rejoice amidst the dark
GOD’S WORD TODAY - Manoling Francisco S.J. (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2018 - 12:00am

Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent which is also called Gaudete Sunday.  The introduction to today’s Mass begins with the words, “Gaudete in Domino semper” which translates, “Rejoice in the Lord ever more.”  Why are we called to rejoice when Advent means to wait for the Lord’s coming?  Perhaps because while he has come indeed into our world two millennia ago, we believe that he will come again.  In the meantime, we pray for him to enter our lives more fully, for his presence to become more and more tangible in our world engulfed by darkness.   

Allow me to share some reflections about Jesus the light in relation to our manifold experiences of darkness.

Light after the dark night.  Like the first rays of the sun breaking out after a prolonged night, we speak of the Incarnate Word as the light that reveals to us the ineffable God: “a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind” that reveals to us the invisible God,” (Preface I of the Nativity of the Lord).  We also speak of the Risen Lord as the Eternal Light who conquers the darkness of sin and death.

In this perspective the light of divine grace comes after the darkness of ignorance, sin and death are overcome.

In reference to ourselves, we often experience grace as light ultimately banishing the night—the prayed-for cure from a terminal illness, renewal and liberation from an addiction, family reconciliation after years of conflict and fragmentation, liberation from incarceration, democratic space after the overthrow of a dictatorship, economic development after years of stagnation.

Now basking in the light after a protracted night, we thank the Lord for having blessed us, for intervening and bringing about our personal and social transformation.  However, the light can also glimmer inconspicuously amidst the dark.

Light amidst the dark night.  With regard Jesus’ Paschal Mystery, grace proves victorious not only at the moment of the resurrection.  Grace wins over sin and evil not only as Jesus is raised from the dead, but in every moment of his passion and death.  In Jesus’ fidelity to his cause and convictions, to the mission given him by the Father, to his friends despite their betrayal and desertion, divine love remains indomitable.  The light of Jesus’ faithful love cannot be extinguished by the darkness of human sin and evil.

In this perspective we are invited to discern glimmers of light amidst the dark.  We glean rays of light in the resiliency of our displaced brothers and sisters in Marawi and typhoon-ravaged communities, in the self-sacrifice of the millions of OWFs who battle isolation and loneliness in faraway lands, in the courage of Bp. Ambo David who denounces the spate of EJKs in the Diocese of Kalookan, and in the quiet strength of Maria Ressa who continues to write about our culture of violence and death.  In all these instances the light does not come only after the dark has been dispelled, but manifests itself in the interiority of individuals.  This interior light is the indwelling of the Lord, enabling us to battle the night of despair and hopelessness.

The dark night as light.  Not only does the light necessarily come after the night or show itself amidst the dark.  Paradoxically, the night itself can be light in mysterious ways.  In the baby Jesus born in a stable, hunted down by an envious king, in whose name blood is spilled, the omnipotent God has become vulnerable.  The helplessness of God is in fact light to us, for in God’s embrace of our fragility, the Lord makes himself accessible to us all.  In Jesus’ cry of abandonment on the cross, we glimpse light from God who detests sin but allows himself to be victimized by human sin.  In Jesus’ desolation on the cross God expresses solidarity with us in our distress and despair, our sense of forsakenness and “forgottenness” by God.

In what ways might our experiences of darkness simultaneously be mysterious experiences of light?  Might our encounters with deep loneliness and gnawing emptiness be an invitation to solitude, to intimacy with God in an intangible yet profound way?  Might our indignation against corruption and violence, inequity and falsehood reveal to us our passion for justice and truth?   

Today, Gaudete Sunday, we rejoice because Jesus our light has penetrated and continues to dispel the night.



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