One verse that struck me from today’s Gospel was, “that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light” (Jn 3:19). Why do we prefer darkness over light? Why do we say with St. Paul, “For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:25)? Now we are not always in this state of choosing darkness over light and choosing to do what we don’t want to do instead of what we want to, but we are probably guilty of entertaining both more than we are willing to admit. Why? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I can share a few ideas.
We are certainly influenced by the condition of Original Sin, that time in our ancient ancestral past where the choice to choose self over God happened and has been perpetuated generation after generation up to an including today. We choose our self over God because that is the way we have learned to live our lives. We create habitual patterns of behavior and then we go on automatic pilot, continuing to make the same decisions over and over again. We also make decisions that appear to be but are not for our highest hope and good, because many of us have been wounded and we are doing the best we can to cope and survive.
Our Baptism takes care of Original Sin, but we still have concupiscence, which is our tendency to be drawn into sinful actions. We are still susceptible to temptation. What helps is recognizing that there is a God who loves us, so much so, that he sent his only Son to be one with us so we can be one with him. We need to make a decision to come out of the shadows, out of the darkness of our defense mechanisms, our denial, our past hurts, anxieties and fears. We need to say yes to Jesus who never sinned because for each and every temptation he received, even in Gethsemane, Jesus had one and the same answer: “Not my will but yours be done” (cf. Lk 22:42).
When we choose to surrender our life to God, by aligning our will with God’s, and by participating in the life of Jesus, we are able to receive and experience the love of the Holy Spirit working in our own lives. In so doing, we will find healing and forgiveness. This is not a one time event. This is a progressive, spiritual journey that continues throughout the whole of our lives, and into eternity with God. When we notice we are beginning to slip into a more selfish posture, this awareness is good. We need to resist beating ourselves up, admit where we are, apologize as necessary, and return to loving God, ourselves, and one another.
Holy Spirit, please guide us today so that we can better resist the temptations that go before us, unlearn the negative behaviors we have accumulated, and create new habits to replace those that have kept us bound and shackled to our self centered, indifferent, and cynical postures. Help us to accept the shadow sides of ourselves, to allow your love to heal us, and to place our trust in the Light of Jesus, the warmth of his love, and the gift of his forgiveness and mercy. Help us to resist looking too far ahead, but give us enough light that we may be able to take one step at a time so we grow and mature through patient endurance.
Photo: Crucifix at main entry to Our Lady of Florida Retreat Center, Palm Beach Gardens, FL