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Learning to See in the Light of Faith: Fr. Peter Stravinskas

By Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D.
4/3/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As Christians, we claim to be the followers of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. St. Paul repeatedly admonished his people to walk honorably as in the daylight. But how do you know if you are doing so?

As Christians, we claim to be the followers of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.  St. Paul repeatedly admonished his people to walk honorably as in the daylight.  But how do you know if you are doing so?  Let me offer a brief examination of conscience, which can serve as an acid test for your own blindness or insight. When the media attack Christian values, what is your reaction?  When the polls inform us that x% of Catholics approve of practices contrary to the Catholic Faith, what is your conclusion?  When the Church, which offers the light of Christ to the world, challenges your own personal behavior with the unfailing standard of the Gospel, what is your response?  When political messiahs present you with an attractive social or economic package but likewise peddle immorality, do you vote for God or Mammon?  When the pseudo-intellectuals in our midst today, who have been blinded by their own enlightenment, serve up their pontifications, do you heed them?  If you do not choose Christ and His Church, you are blinder than the Pharisees or the French anti-clericals ever were!  Choosing the light means both thinking the right thoughts and performing the right actions.

FALL RIVER, MA (Catholic Online) - This past Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Church observed "Laetare Sunday," "Rejoicing Sunday" because Lent is more than half-way over.  Visually, this theme is evoked as the priest replaces the somber purple vestments of Lent with rose-colored ones.  Many times , the prayers of the Sacred Liturgy sounded the theme of joy, often connected with light and enlightenment.

Have you ever lost your sight - even temporarily?  Have you ever been plunged into darkness unexpectedly?  It is a frightening, fearsome thing.  Darkness/light, night/day, and blindness/sight are themes frequently repeated by St. John in his Gospel because he wanted to teach some important truths about Jesus and the nature of Christianity through these familiar human experiences of reality.

In the third chapter of St. John's Gospel, we are allowed to eavesdrop on the dialogue between Our Lord and Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee who - at the same time - is a disciple of Jesus, approaching Him only under the cover of darkness.  Christ reminds Nicodemus that there is an intimate connection between walking in the darkness and doing evil deeds and between walking in the light and performing righteous deeds.
 
Six chapters later in Sundays passage, the Evangelist has this theological lesson acted out or dramatized for us in the cure of the man born blind.  There, we see a study in contrast presented for our consideration.  We meet the  man born blind, through no fault of his own; he is eager to see both spiritually and physically - he is open to the workings of God. 

Then we encounter the Pharisees, who have physical sight, but they have become spiritually blinded because they have lost all perspective; instead of rejoicing at the healing of the blind man, they react to the fact that Jesus has healed him on the Sabbath.  These men prove true the adage which says, "There are none so blind as those who will not see."  What John has done, then, is to present us with examples of two types of people we always have with us:  People who are willing to accept Jesus as the Light of the World, and people who are unwilling to do so.

Some time back I viewed the video of  Francois Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites.  Although it lacks the excitement or lyricism of a Puccini opera, it contains a powerful message.  The action occurs in France during the French Revolution and zeroes in on one Carmelite convent, which becomes a symbol or microcosm for every other religious house at that time. 

If you recall your history, that period was also known as the Enlightenment, which prided itself on replacing the God of Revelation with the god of unaided human reason.  It was, of course, characterized by an active hostility toward religion.  As the plot unfolds, the revolutionary forces offer the Religious a choice: Give up your convents and habits, or give up your heads.  As a result, thousands of clergy and Religious were martyred - the first fruits of the so-called Enlightenment.

When man exceeds his bounds; when he is blind to his human limitations; when he tries to be like God; the enlightenment which follows is, in reality, darkness.  The Enlightenment continues to have a pernicious influence on our culture, bringing in its wake every kind of disaster from abortion-on-demand, to family breakdown, to sexual promiscuity, to materialism, to teenage suicide.  Man has attempted to experience enlightenment without Christ, with the result that the darkness has never been deeper, the blindness has never been more devastating.

Returning to our opera, we see that as the guillotine hits each nun's neck, the blindness of their persecutors in their hatred for Christ's truth becomes eminently clear.  Then true Enlightenment dawns on the crowds, who gradually stop their barbaric cheering of the violence and are forced to consider the witness of these rather unexceptional but holy women - women who were bearers of light in one of history's darkest hours.  They succeeded in bringing people from blindness, to sight, to genuine insight. 

An interesting historical note: So impressive were the courage and fidelity of those nuns and so negative the reaction of the people to their deaths that they were the last victims of a public execution for the remainder of the French Revolution.  Like Jesus, their witness to truth and love brought peace and reconciliation.

As Christians, we claim to be the followers of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.  St. Paul repeatedly admonished his people to walk honorably as in the daylight.  But how do you know if you are doing so?  Let me offer a brief examination of conscience, which can serve as an acid test for your own blindness or insight.

When the media attack Christian values, what is your reaction?  When the polls inform us that x% of Catholics approve of practices contrary to the Catholic Faith, what is your conclusion?  When the Church, which offers the light of Christ to the world, challenges your own personal behavior with the unfailing standard of the Gospel, what is your response? 

When political messiahs present you with an attractive social or economic package but likewise peddle immorality, do you vote for God or Mammon?  When the pseudo-intellectuals in our midst today, who have been blinded by their own enlightenment, serve up their pontifications, do you heed them?  If you do not choose Christ and His Church, you are blinder than the Pharisees or the French anti-clericals ever were!  Choosing the light means both thinking the right thoughts and performing the right actions.

On Laetare Sunday, Christ the Light of the world asked you: Can you see, truly see - which is to say, are you walking in the light of a Christian day and thus do you truly have cause to rejoice?

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Comfort for the Afflicted.
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