Friday, April 3, 2015

Darkness Covers the Earth

"A Glimmer of Light"
 - Outside the Desert Retreat House -

As Christians celebrate "Good Friday" today, the Jewish community throughout the world also begins the annual "Passover" festival - two major holy days, both celebrating a victory of light over the darkness, freedom over slavery, love over hate. 

According to the Hebrew story, the people of Israel who had been slaves in Egypt for almost 400 years go to sleep one dark night as an angel passes over the land so that when morning comes they are free at last - on their way to the Promised Land. In the Gospel story the life of Jesus comes to an end on this day. His life-long battle with the dark forces of oppression and hatred seems to have been lost as he dies crucified on a cross. But then Easter comes, the tomb is empty and love wins the day.

The "good news" of both Passover as well as Good Friday should leave the whole world with a sense of hope- the end of slavery, the victory of love - free at last!

And yet, the truth is that when I look at the world around me I still see plenty of slavery, lots of oppression, hatred and division, and the darkness still seems to cover the earth.

Yet even as I am inundated by those daily stories of ongoing racism, political infighting, beheadings and bombings, wars and threats of more wars, stories about a society in which 1% of the population hoard and control overwhelming wealth while poor people sleep on the streets, stories about a society so caught up in the grip of rampant consumerism that it seems to have lost its bearings.  And yet, even in the midst of all that darkness, I also see glimmers of light shining through.

There are hope-filled signs of a peace treaty calming the threat of an eventual nuclear war. There seems to be a new awareness of gender and race equality, new laws protecting all citizens from discrimination, a much greater willingness to welcome foreigners and immigrants, soup kitchens, food pantries, clinics, lots of places where I see countless act of kindness in everyday life  - glimmers of light everywhere I look. 

I am reminded of a line from a poem by W. H. Auden:

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere
Ironic points of light 
flash out wherever the Just
exchange their messages.

The message of Passover and the proclamation of Good Friday is not that darkness has come to an end but that that there is also a powerful force of light abiding at the heart of this world - "ironic points of light flashing everywhere in the hearts of the Just" in every corner of the world. Ultimately that light will overcome the darkness, tyrants will be defeated and love will win the day.

On this Good Friday I remember something Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote - for me, it articulates the essence of what today is all about:

But even in the midst of all the chaos
I refuse to believe that mankind is tragically bound 
to the starless midnight of racism and war.
I refuse to believe that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood
can never become a reality.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Yes, I still believe that 
we shall overcome!



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