Fear and Light
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest…”
These words of Isaiah quickly bring to mind the not-so-distant celebration of Christmas – in fact, they take us back to the anticipation of Advent in that acknowledgment of the gloom and darkness in which we wait for salvation.
As familiar as I am with the above verse, as I read the first reading the lines just prior jumped out at me: “Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.”
The Psalm affirms the Lord as our light and salvation, our life’s refuge – “Whom should we fear? Of whom should we be afraid?”
While it seems so easy to read these words and nod our heads, feel the confident comfort they ring; if we stop for a moment and recall a moment like what Isaiah describes – anguish, darkness, gloom and distress – the unconscious shaking of our heads shows the reality of our inherent disbelief and how deeply we experience those moments of despair.
One of my daughters, she recently turned nine, is particularly sensitive to fears. She is afraid of the dark, of going back to school after a long weekend or holiday break, she is afraid of illness and death… It can be hard as a mother not to wonder “what’s wrong?” Why is she so afraid? What reason is there for it?
Her fears are not rational and I have learned that trying to reason with her is not the most effective calming method. Helping her clarify and break the fear down into more bite size chunks does help some, but the best way I can calm her is to just be with her. To be the light in that darkness – to simply be an anchor she can hold on to, a wing to lift her up.
As childlike as it might seem – I believe the readings today are a call to keep Christmas close in mind and heart as the new year picks up steam. (One month from now we start Lent… already?!?!) These Scriptures are calling us back to the manger scene where we gazed on the sleeping Christ Child in the arms of his Mother, under the gaze of Joseph. To that place where we saw the star and heard the angels sing of the Glory of God come down to be with us.
The last stanzas of the Psalm encourage us to ask “one thing” – “To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” And as if knowing how challenging that can be, the Psalmist immediately follows it up with, “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted and wait for the Lord.” When moments of despair creep in, let’s try and imagine ourselves like the loved child we are in God’s lap… The infant in Mary’s arms… Reminded that we are not alone – as long as we heed Jesus’ call to follow him – a call that we answer first by opening ourselves to see his action and then committing to choose him with our heart above all else.
Holy Apostles, disciples of Jesus, teach us this week how to discern his voice. You who received the Holy Spirit as lighted tongues of fire, intercede for us the graces of strength and courage to listen and follow the light.