On this third Sunday of Advent the prophet Isaiah announces the coming of one who has been entrusted with the mission of bringing freedom, healing, and the proclamation of good news. In the Gospel we hear John the Baptist – the advance man, the one who goes before – tell us clearly that he is not the “light” but announces the presence of the “Light.”
This reference to “light” takes us back to the book of Genesis where, in the creation narrative, we hear God say, “Let there be light.” In just two weeks we will hear in the First Reading for Midnight Mass Isaiah tell us that “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.”
Even nature joins in giving us a message regarding the darkness and light. In a matter of days we will experience the shortest day of the year. And then each day the light will increase by short increments of time – more light will come minute upon minute. God continues to say to us, even through nature’s process, “Let there be light.”
Our Advent journey teaches us that even though God’s light (from the creation account) got turned to darkness along the way by humans, God keeps saying to us, “Let there be light.” We must then ask ourselves how we contribute to this darkness? And are we seeking to grow into the Light? Where do we find it in our own lives and in the life of our Community? Where are we diminishing the light or blocking it?
We block the light when we cut ourselves off from the Community or exclude others by our secretiveness, and by not including them. This attitude and behavior is another way we attempt to “keep others in the dark.” Our own moods/our spirit can add to the darkness. You’ve all heard the phrase “doom and gloom” which usually refers to persons and words that bring pessimism, heaviness, and hopelessness.
Another area we must look at includes the various ways that darkness and blindness exist in our own lives. We can be blinded by what we see – familiar persons, because they are so close to us, can be treated as if we don’t see them or we take them for granted – not greeting them, not conversing with them, not acknowledging them.
It is interesting that the word “expectation,” used so often in Advent, literally means “watching out” or “looking out.” What we SEE can be determined by what we are looking for. It’s like when I have in my hand a hammer – then to me everything looks like a nail. Our expectations can keep us blind, keep us in the dark, limit our vision both physically and spiritually. We can be in the dark, blinded by what we want to see or by what we don’t want to see.
In all of these circumstances of our personal and communal life, God loves us. God is ever with us and God challenges us to grow from the darkness and blindness in our lives and the life of our Community into the Light who has come.
Sunday’s readings from Isaiah and Paul in Thessalonians tell us that we are to “bring glad tidings.” We are to rejoice heartily in the Lord, in God who is the joy of our soul. We are to rejoice always! “In all circumstances we are to give thanks for this is the will of God for (us) in Christ Jesus.” This attitude and way of life, will bring the “Light” ever closer to us. This Light, who is Jesus our Savior, will remove all that blinds us. We will then see ourselves more clearly. This “seeing more clearly” will extend to others, our God, and all of creation.
We have a choice – to remain in the darkness, the shadows, and never come to know the gift we are or the gift others are in our lives and in our Community. We cannot love that which we don’t truly see – don’t know, or don’t take the time to come to know.
The Light who comes will empower us to do this. The word for “light” which John uses here is the Greek work “phos.” It is also the same word for light used in Psalm 27 (“the Lord is my light and my salvation”) and in Isaiah chapter 49 (“I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth”).
The Greek word “phos” for light always means “salvation.” The Light which is to come, John says, is our Salvation, but he, John, is not the light but is a testimony to the Light. We can grow from being a disciple (one who shares a close relationship with, in our case, Jesus Christ) into an apostle (one who is sent, appointed, an emissary, one entrusted with a mission). That is what John is telling us is his role, and he is also telling us this week that we too must testify to the Light – every aspect of our lives must be a testimony to the Light. God does not want us to remain blind, in the dark.
May we this Advent, like John, accept the call to be a testimony. May our lives as apostles, as ones who are sent, as ones entrusted with a mission, testify to the Light so that all might believe. Truly this Light is our God who comes to save us! For this, as Paul says in Thessalonians, “WE REJOICE ALWAYS.”
—Reflection by Sister Pauling Micke, OSB Director, Benedictine Center of Spirituality
Read or reread the weekly reflections for this year’s Advent journey of expectation and preparation.