Mar 28, 2018
A few days ago, we heard Pontius Pilate ask Jesus, “What is truth?” These days it can be hard to tell what the truth is, and it’s not “fake news” I’m talking about. It’s things like this… you can find in many places on the internet this quote from the eminent Greek philosopher Plato: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” That statement resonates truth. But alas, it’s not from Plato… at least not that anyone can find. It was created by someone, though, probably someone insecure who thought this great idea of his would get more traction if it was attributed to Plato. And it has gotten a lot of traction because by itself the statement is true. So we have a half-truth, and there are lots of those around. Half-truths undermine the truth just as much as an outright lie because half-truths create a cynical distrust of everything.
Last week I talked about contrasts. This week’s Easter liturgy begins with a contrast. In the darkness of the night of Holy Saturday, we light a fire outside and then bring that fire into the Church. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has risen from the dead. As Saint Paul has said in 1 Corinthians 15… if Jesus is not risen from the dead, our faith is empty and we are the most foolish of people.
There’s a tradition in Germany of lighting great bonfires on Easter that burn for a whole day or two. It’s a reminder that Easter and the Resurrection is not just a moment; it is not just the three hours we may spend in church for the Easter Vigil. It is for a lifetime, an eternal lifetime.
As St. John says at the very beginning of his Gospel, “What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:3b-5
So getting back to the Pseudo-Plato quote, the tragedy is that so many people these days do seem to be afraid of this light; at least, they do not trust it. For perhaps two thousand years or more, people could at least make Pascal’s Wager, that the benefits of believing in God outweighed any costs, even if it turned out God didn’t exist; virtue, after all, is its own reward, but if God and heaven do exist, life would be pointless if one missed out on heaven. Now people believe that the bet isn’t worth it. In the words of Saint John’s Gospel chapter 3, people prefer the darkness to the light.
Yet we Christians in the world and we are not free from darkness, both outside and within. But we are oriented to the Light, thanks to the redeeming grace of our
Pope Francis has spoken about this light-orientation of our faith. “It means looking at the light, continuing to profess our faith in the light, even when the world is enveloped by night and darkness… They (Christians) don’t believe in darkness, but in the light of day; they don’t succumb to the night, but they hope in the dawn; they are not beaten by death, but they await the resurrection; they are not bent by evil, because they always confide in the infinite possibilities of good.” (General audience of Aug 2, 2017)
The English philosopher Francis Bacon, about whom we are much more certain than about Plato, once said, “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” We don’t have to worry about that. Darkness there is, around us and in each of us, but there is also is much light. You can’t see darkness, but you can see and recognize light.
Before the creation, outside of God there was only darkness. And God’s first words were “Let there be light.” And light came into being, and God separated the light from the darkness. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, and today at Easter we celebrate His triumph over the dark void of nothingness known as death. We celebrate because His triumph is ours as well.