One way of looking at the events of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection is to look for the darkness and the light. Jesus plunged into the very darkest dimensions of human experience and returned as the true Light of the World, casting the light of life into every dark corner for those who dare to look. These past months of pandemic have plunged all of us into darkness in various ways and at various times. It has taken great courage sometimes to believe that the Light has never gone out and to look for it in the midst of fear, confusion, and pain. And that pull between darkness and light, though it has lessened as hope has broken through more and more powerfully, isn't over yet. And won't be. Pandemics come and go, just as famine, war and fire come and go, but the one assurance we are given is that Christ our Light is always there, threading a network of light through whatever darkness threatens. Part of the work of conversion is to seek the light and seek to live by it when we see it.
Powerfully prodded by St . Benedict in Chapter 49 of the Rule, we tend to focus on Lent as the season of conversion. But St. Benedict proposed that the lives of his followers should always be a Lenten journey through the darkness of sin into the light of life in the risen Christ.
In fact, we see in the early Church, whose story we read in the Book of Acts in the liturgies of the Easter season, that the conversion begun when those first Christians heard Jesus' call did not end with relief and celebration when he rose from the dead! In fact, their experience of the time between Easter and Pentecost, which we celebrate tomorrow, was a whole new plunge into a life of conversion. They had to go back to school, as it were--Jesus did urge them and us to become as little children--whom St. Benedict has since enrolled in his "school of the Lord's service" from which there is no graduation! (See the Prologue for the fuller picture!) They had above all to learn to see differently by the new light of the risen Christ. Mary Magdalene had to learn to let go of the Jesus she had known and loved in his pre-resurrection humanity. The disciples headed for Emmaus had to learn to read the Scriptures differently through the lens Jesus shone on them during their journey with him--whom they thought was a stranger. And perhaps he was in his new reality. They had to learn to recognize Jesus himself no longer in the familiar rabbi-carpenter but in the bread in which he remains perennially present. Peter had to learn to get over himself, as one of my seminary students used to admonish himself regularly, leave his misery and guilt behind, and devote himself to feeding Jesus' sheep! And he had lots of learn about that, as we read in the Book of Acts. We can read all of the Easter stories as classes whose essential curriculum was becoming and living as Christ's own risen Body--and image repeated again and again in the stories and letters of St. Paul.
And learning to see and hear and live differently by the light of the risen Christ now and forever present among us did not end at Pentecost. On the contrary, the disciples upon whom the Spirit was poured with the force of wind and fire were only just starting to translate their commitment to Christ into the realities of every day life in a world not particularly interested in what they had to say.
Our clothes differ from theirs. Our langauges have changed. The world in which we live would be unrecognizable to them. But the story is the same: we have spent weeks living the Lenten journey and more weeks learning about the day-today implications of the resurrection of Christ. Tomorrow we celebrate again the gift of the Holy Spirit who impelled those first Christians out into the lifelong conversion which our relationship with the living Christ requires of us.
And then comes Monday. And the Monday after that. And the Monday after that. And we continue to grow every Monday, every day, every week into the depths of life illumined by the presence and love of the Light of the World who continues to lead us on through whatever awaits us!
Copyright 2021 Abbey of St. Walburga