There’s a lot of talk about darkness these days. The darkness of Holy Week. The darkness of this pandemic we are in. My doctor telling me to be sure to use a night light so I won’t trip over the throw rugs in the dark. (“We worry about older people falling,” she explains. Politely.)
In the exquisite prologue to John’s gospel, the writer names Jesus as the light of all mankind at the very creation of the world. “The light shines in the darkness,” says John, “and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:4-5).
Now as we begin to walk once again with Jesus to his cross, we are reminded of the Christ light in the lectionary readings for Monday in Holy Week. “In your light we see light” says the psalmist (36:9).
Were we to read all of Psalm 36 – only verses 5-11 are assigned – we would see that light contrasted with the darkness of those who do not know God.
Verses 1 to 4 of the psalm describe the way of the unrighteous: they flatter themselves, they lie and cheat, they plot evil:
Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in their hearts;
there is no fear of God
before their eyes.
For they flatter themselves in their own eyes
that their iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of their mouths are mischief and deceit;
they have ceased to act wisely and do good.
They plot mischief while on their beds;
they are set on a way that is not good;
they do not reject evil .
In contrast, the psalmist compares the virtues of God, addressing God directly:
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light (vss 7-9)
In God’s light, we are reminded in other psalms, darkness has no place to hide:
Even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you (139:12).
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness? (88:12)
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path (119:105).
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? (27:1)
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple (119:130).
For you have delivered my soul from death,
and my feet from falling,
so that I may walk before God
in the light of life (56:13).
The clarity that light reveals is made even more significant when we consider that in the ancient world one did not walk into a room and flip a switch to obtain light. The darkness of night was penetrated only by the stars in the sky or by candle or oil lamp. One rose to each new day by the light of dawn. The light of creation.
The prophet Isaiah told God’s people to expect this light of Christ in the Old Testament reading for today (42:1-9). What’s more, says Isaiah as he describes the chosen servant of God, this light would reveal God’s love for all mankind:
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness (42:6-7).
We can even see the contrast between darkness and light in the gospel reading – John 12:1-11.
After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus has gone to Bethany to visit Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. A dinner party is held to honor Jesus, and Mary, the sister of Lazarus, brings a jar of very expensive perfume, anoints Jesus’ feet, and wipes them with her hair. She is preparing him for his burial.
But Judas, the one who will betray his leader, can only see waste. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money used for the poor?” he demands. Jesus responds: You can always take care of the poor, but right now we need to focus on what my crucifixion will mean for all of humanity (my paraphrase).
The Christ light shines, but Judas is not able to see by it, for he is blinded by his own agenda.
It’s hard to shine like Jesus this week in the midst of our own reaction to COVID-19. We are so scared. We do not know what is ahead of us. Will I have a job at the end of this? Will I be able to complete my schooling? Will my family get sick? Will my elderly parents die sooner than I had planned for?
Did Jesus’ followers wonder what was ahead of their friend, their leader, the one they thought had come to save the world? How was it all going to end?
The hope of Easter is what we are hanging on this week. The light of Christ still shines in the darkness. We can choose to see by it. Or we can stumble in darkness.
– Marjorie George
For all of the readings for Monday in Holy Week, click here https://www.lectionarypage.net/YearABC_RCL/HolyWk/HolyMon_RCL.html#gsp1
Marjorie serves the Diocese of West Texas as a consultant in Adult Christian Formation. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or leave a reply below.