April 10, 2012

MISSION MATTERS: Light in Darkness

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By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry

We are in the middle of the Octave of Easter, a time in which we're invited to allow the importance of Easter to be something more than just one day of our year, or just one moment in our lives, regardless of how many times we have celebrated it. Like the eight days of Passover, this prolonged celebration can help us engage the meaning of this time, filled with the life-giving and powerful message of God's love for each and for all of us. This is a time filled with more meaning than a single day could allow us to savor or fully understand.

This time of light, life and love can only be understood in contrast with other times. Like the lighting director of a stage production, light can only be understood in contrast to the darkness of a theater. Or, we only hear and understand the musician's best expressions if we compare and contrast them with the silence of the concert hall.

In the same way, the meaning and purpose of Easter only come at the end of, and in relationship with, the experience of Lent. The life and love, each a part of the salvation history we celebrate, is best understood only if we remember the times of struggle with our world and our own selfishness, our own times of death and loneliness. Light is seen only in contrast with darkness. Life is not celebrated except in contrast with the grief of death. Love is prized most if we experience it after we know the loneliness of our own selfishness, our own self-centeredness.

As we strive to celebrate and to understand this time, this Octave of Easter, we need to remember and to prize the struggles which have gotten us this far. We need not to forget the darkness that gives meaning to the light. We need to know that life and death need each other to give each other meaning. We must also remember that love is most powerfully felt by those who have known how it feels not being loved.

In many ways, this Octave of Easter challenges us to remember that our lives and our world are all made up of times of light and darkness. We have our good days, our successes, and we certainly have our bad days and our failures. We need all of those experiences for us to learn and to appreciate the gifts God offers each of us. We need the shadows to appreciate the light.

As we continue to celebrate this wonderful part of the Easter season, let us remember that all the times of our lives are for a reason; let us remember that all the times of our lives offer us greater knowledge of ourselves, others and God. Like St. Ignatius, let us pray that we may see God not only in the light of good times in our lives, but also in the darkness of our times of struggle.

Light and dark; love and loneliness; life and death. What full lives we have. Thanks be to God!

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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