22 June 2012

Dare the darkness with faith and reason!

11th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Coming as they do immediately after the Beatitudes, Jesus' short lessons on hypocrisy and sincerity teach us the difference btw a well-formed and a malformed conscience. He says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. . .” What is a “sound eye”? Other translations of this verse read, “If your eye is single,” “If your eye is healthy,” unclouded, clear, good. Perhaps the best translation for the Greek here is: “If your eye is simple,” that is, uncomplicated, true. Think in terms of how one's heart and mind must not hold a doubled allegiance—one to Christ and one to the world. Just as your will is sworn to Christ in love; and just as your intellect is sworn to him in truth, so your eye—your conscience—must be aligned with his saving light. “If your eye is bad [doubled, complicated, clouded] your whole body will be in darkness.” The well-formed conscience enlightens not the body of the believer but the whole Body of the Church as well. The flame of one candle joins the flames of a thousand, a million, a billion more, bringing more light to the Church to enlighten the whole world. However, “if the light in you is darkness,” greater for the Church and the world will the darkness be. 

I don't have to tell you what dangers hide in the darkness. Some are a threat to you and you alone. Some threaten your family. Others harass the nation and the Church so that we will look away while evil does its dirty work. In times past, we have rationalized, psychologized, and pathologized away these dangers so that we might remain prominent in the eyes of the eyes of the world. We've dismissed small daily raids on truth and goodness, calling evil's victories “accommodations to the popular will.” We've minimized full-scale cultural wars against the integrity of the family, calling evil's victories “civil rights advances for the oppressed.” And, of course, we've been busy with internal church battles against our own demons—dissent, abuse, outright rebellion. Now we must deal with not only with our self-inflicted wounds but with the secular powers as well—a gov't pushing us into the sanctuary and ordering us to shut up. “If the light in you is darkness, the darkness will be great.” How great will the darkness be? Exactly as great as the followers of Christ, all men and women of good will, allow it to be. 

 “If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. . .” Your body. The body of your family. Your parish, your diocese, your nation, and your Church—the whole Body of Christ. The well-formed conscience of a follower of Christ is not a prudish, squeamish, finger-wagging nag. And the light of Christ is not a blinding burst or a deafening clap. The light that enlightens the human soul is the same light that brought everything out of nothing and gifted each of us with reason and faith. That light is God's love. When tempted by darkness to fudge the truth, we shine that light. When tempted to call evil good, we shine that light. When tempted by the darkness to shine that light elsewhere, we shine it nonetheless and suffer the consequences. The light of Christ that brightens you body and soul is not yours to withhold. Don't wait for me, Fr. Mike, Bishop Gregory, even Pope Benedict to tell you where to shine the light of Christ. Shine out God's love where you are, everywhere you go. Dare the darkness with faith and reason! Just be sure that your eye is simple, wholly aligned with Christ, unclouded by sin, and sharply focused on loving even the unlovable. One flame joined to another. . .becomes a beacon. When the storm hits, the lost among us will need a light to guide them. If the Church is going to be that beacon, she will need your brightest light. 

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  1. You sure do ask a lot of a person! Am I up to the task? Can I face the darkness with courage and shine that inner light? Definitely going to confession tomorrow :-).

    This has been a great week, as you have built upon the previous homilies bit by bit. I have enjoyed the homiletic journey.

    It is hard for me to really comment on this one, for there is so much in there. It needs to be there, and needs to be spoken, though, so I'm not complaining. But I'm glad I'm on retreat tomorrow and can have some time to pray and think over all you have written this week - the last time I went on retreat I was 18 and honestly didn't want to leave the Visitation Monastery (in Mobile). So, if you don't hear from me again....

    And could you please remember in our prayers a dear priest, Fr. Bobbie Rimes, SJ, of Spring Hill College in Mobile who passed away 3 weeks ago? I just heard the news. Without his gentle guidance 20 years ago I would not have been able to see/feel the light at all.

    1. Shelly, as always, mille grazie for your comments!

    2. Non c'e` di che!

  2. Do you sit there at night and try and think of new ways to torture me? Just kidding! Your last couple of sermons have given me much to think about and I don't like the way I come out against the measuring stick but you keep up the good work and there may be some hope for me after all. Your sermons truly inspire me to try and live a better Christian Life,Thanks for them.

    1. "Do you sit there at night and try and think of new ways to torture me?"

      No, Mark, not at all! Jesus sends angels to whisper suggestions to me. . .I don't have to think of anything on my own. ;-)

      Thanks for reading and commenting!