The religious thinker Teilhard de Chardin frequently said that Christianity is not an additional burden of observances and obligations added to our life. Rather, it bestows significance, beauty, and new light on what we are already doing. Christ is the illumination of our existing world, and faith in him enables us to see that world truly. One of the ways Christ saves us is by revealing who God is and who we are meant to be. Jesus shows us God as forgiving, loving and faithful, welcoming the sinner and the lost. And he shows us that humanity itself is possible, through the power of a heart converted and renewed in him. True sight is really insight into who Jesus is and how his vision transforms the landscape.
John’s Gospel is full of people who are looking for salvation: the Samaritan woman at the well; Nicodemus who comes to visit Jesus in the darkness of night; the crowds who are fed by Jesus. We are also looking for salvation, for the healing of our broken loves, for release from our loneliness, for righting of the injustices of our world. Those who stop looking they have begun to see are like the man born blind: they come to believe in Jesus. Such sight is a gift; to receive it we have only to open our hearts to Jesus, the light of the world.
This light is not meant for ourselves alone. “Live as children of light,” Paul says. “Light produces every kind of goodness and justice and truth.” We are meant to bring the light of Christ to the darkness of one another’s lives and of our world. One example of a woman who did this is Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the great leaders of the Black freedom struggle. Born into a family of Black sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, she engaged in a non-violent struggle for the rights of the Black and poor. Many of her projects met with apparent failure, but she endured great hardship and persecution without bitterness. She is remembered for proclaiming the Word through songs like:
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine . . . Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!
Her life is one reminder that God’s light of love and justice continues to shine even in the midst of the most terrible darkness. We are called today to believe in that light and bring it to others.
Fr Augustine McBeth