When I was a boy, my little brother and I would sometimes sneak around the house before our parents woke up on a Saturday morning. One Saturday, before the sun was up, my brother and I decided we could get our own breakfast, pour our own milk, and generally do what we wanted without any help. So, sneaking quietly out of bed, we went to the kitchen. We didn’t turn on any lights because we knew it might wake up parents.
About halfway through our groping in the darkness of the morning, spilling the milk and the cereal, dropping the bowls and the spoons, the light in the kitchen suddenly illumined the darkness! And standing in the doorway was an obviously annoyed parental unit! Caught! By the way, who knew 5 AM was too early for breakfast for a 7 year old and his 5 year old brother! Valuable lesson learned!
But we humans instinctively know, whether we acknowledge it or not, that when we are sneaking around, when we crave the “cover” of darkness for our acts, we are acting in ways we would not act like if the lights were on! That’s why we do what we do in the dark.
Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in John 3:16-21:
The Lord said to his disciples: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that these deeds have been wrought in God.”
Men loved darkness BECAUSE their deeds were evil. Darkness and evil aren’t “things” in themselves, but the absence of “things.” Darkness isn’t a “something.” It is the evidence that light is missing. Evil isn’t a “something.” It is the evidence that righteousness is missing. But “no thing” is powerful. Just ask anyone who has ever been without oxygen!
Notice the passage declares that “this is the judgement .”(verse 19) An interesting phrase, don’t you think? The judgement of God isn’t some huge book with all your deeds in them that God has kept an eternal scorecard and tallies up your good deeds and bad deeds and see which weighs more. No, the judgement of God is simply Him being Himself and shining the Light of His presence on our world. That which loves darkness in us recoils and runs and hides (remember Adam in the garden!). That which loves light embraces the light. This is the purpose and method of the whole rhythm of our Orthodox life and discipline: to teach us how to come out of hiding and embrace the Light! To get us use to standing in the Light and to acclimate ourselves to the brightness of His Presence. Being in liturgy, practicing the fastings and feastings of the Church, keeping a prayer rule everyday, getting to know the saints, learning to venerate our Lady and the rest of the saints, being truly faithful Orthodox Christians is all about willingly letting the Light keep shining in our hearts even when it uncovers some darkness in us. Then we joyously approach confession, and allow the Light to heal us from our darkness. After all, being in darkness conditions our eyes for darkness, and when the light is turned on, we squint until our eyes are “use” to the Light. No wonder light and labor is at the heart of Orthodoxy. We are rushing headlong to an unavoidable appointment with Him Who is LIGHT Himself. We better be use to it when we get there or we’ll just hate the place! Aren’t you glad that the Light loves you?
Today, do you love the Light? As we continue to bask in the light of Pascha and prepare for the bravery of the Myrrh Bearing women this Sunday, do you find yourself “sneaking” in dark places? If you’re like me, you’re life is a combination of both of these. The challenge for us today is to come to grips with the reality that this life is given to us to do the hard work of allowing the Light to remake us into His likeness so that when we are in His bright countenance forever we will enjoy it instead of being tormented by His undiminished glory. This life is given to you exactly for this work. Don’t waste it on anything less. No more sneaking around, the Light is ON! And we are called to be children of the Light and of the Day! We are called to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Thanks so much for the birthday wishes yesterday. Fr. Barnabas was very grateful. He is also grateful for your generosity and your partnership with him to share these daily devotionals with others. We send out over 2700 emails a week for these devotionals. We’d love to go over 5000 a week and all we need is for you to get one other person to come on board to our daily work of being Orthodox on Purpose. Who will you send the devotional to today?