Mercy and Light


The themes of the readings for this Sunday’s Mass that stand out to me are those about the mercy of God and finding light in darkness. St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians writes of a God who has mercy for us even when we are still stuck in our transgressions, and then gospel according to John speaks of light that searches us out, and brings the truth of our being (all the good and all the bad in us) into the light. These two readings seem complementary to each other: a light from God that seeks truth along with us and for us, and yet that does so in the spirit of a merciful God who wants to lead us out of the darkness in a gentle manner.

I love the metaphor of light because light is powerful and yet entirely non-violent. Earlier in John’s gospel the author speaks of the light that is never “overcome” by darkness. We might expect in this language of “overcoming” to find something more like the language of military overcoming that is frequent in the prophets (as they interpret their own suffering as somehow part of God’s ultimately redemptive action). But instead, in this language of light we find a force that brings clarity, a power to brings things out of the shadows, a force that reveals the way things truly are, but completely without violence.

Isn’t this also how God speaks to us and deals with us–eager to show us a little more of what is true and to lead us closer to living well but with mercy and without any violence? For example, in praying an end of the day Examen of conscience, we are allowing God’s light to shine into aspects of us that are still hidden, not hidden from God, of course, but rather from ourselves. That light can be revelatory.

The light might expose to us some flaw or shortcoming in ourselves, but in a way that we are able to see it and to know that God loves us in a merciful way, even as we are looking along with God at our shortcomings. Or that light may remind us in a time of sadness, sickness, or struggle how much love there still is in our world. Or we might be moved to see some different dimension of a problem, for example, to feel a re-awakening of gratitude for complicated relationships, with less focus difficulties and more on gifts given, even though the difficulties, too, are real.

God’s light brings everything out into the open–a little at a time—and when we don’t run from it, but allow it to penetrate our being by trusting in the Love that always accompanies the light, then we know God’s saving action. Then we can know God’s mercy for us and for our world.

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