This weekend we return to Daylight Savings Time. This is not only a sign that spring is coming, but a reminder to us that the sunlight hours of the day are increasing ever more rapidly as we approach the Solstice in June. The Vernal Equinox is just a couple of weeks away.
It is coincidental that the setting for our Gospel on this Fourth Sunday of Lent is in the darkness. John uses time of day as a way of highlighting the subtle points he is making in his presentation of Jesus’ teaching and mission. In this moment, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus comes to Jesus and asks him some pointed questions. Nicodemus comes at night as he is in the darkness yet is searching for the light. He might also come at night because he is afraid that his fellow Pharisees and council members might see him speaking with Jesus, and that would not be good for his position and relationship with them. It was, therefore, easier to come at night.
Jesus addresses the contrast of light and darkness in his conversation with Nicodemus: “the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
With all of the ambient light in our area of the world, it is very difficult for us to really experience darkness. Yet even in our limited experience with the dark we know of the powerful interruption of light in darkness. Once we experience the light we prefer – or at least most of us prefer – to approach the light instead of retreating to the darkness.
Yet we know that many people do indeed prefer the darkness. They shelter themselves away from ordinary contact with others, preferring the underbelly of society.
Jesus tells us that it is the same way with the truth. He associates the light with truth, and the darkness with untruth. Much of our own national conversation now is divided along lines of who possesses a political truth. We are becoming untrusting of news outlets, political speeches and social media posts. The bottom line is that we do not know what the truth is. When there are competing truths and neither party is willing to concede that it is not in possession of “the” truth or even that the other side is also in possession of some aspect of the truth, then any dialogue is impossible.
With Jesus comes the truth. Later in John’s Gospel he tells us that he is “the way, the truth and the life.” He is the truth that has come into the world. Yet, as some prefer the darkness of sin to the light of forgiveness and mercy, others will prefer their own truth or a non-truth to accepting the truth that comes only from God.
We need to enlighten our own lives. To allow the light to penetrate those dark places within us that remain hidden because of fear, or even the dis-ease of the consequences of exposure to the light.
The Lord calls us from our darkness, not because he desires to see us exposed and therefore condemned, but because the light will heal us by penetrating the darkness. With light comes warmth and the healing properties that comes with it. When we seek the truth we seek to know Jesus Christ, who is the love that the Father sends to us to bring us to the light and the truth.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel