The Gift and the Challenge
Kathleen and Bridget lived side by side in humble cottages on
the Irish country side at the turn of the last century. Both had
lovely spring gardens which they tended faithfully every Monday
morning. Tuesday was laundry day. On Wednesday Kathleen
would invite Bridget for tea. On Friday Bridget returned the courtesy.
Thursday was shopping day and Saturday both women could be
seen airing bedding and mopping floors.
One Wednesday at tea, Kathleen announced that she had decided
to have an electric ceiling light installed in the sitting room where
they shared their weekly tea. Bridget was surprised. "Why go
through all that bother? The room is cozy and quite suitable for
relaxation and receiving visitors. I think you're making a mistake.
A few weeks later Bridget saw workers moving in and out of
Kathleen's cottage. When the work was complete Kathleen invited
Bridget over for the first lighting. With their tea served, Kathleen
moved to the wall switch and with great ceremony flipped the switch.
In silence they both surveyed the room bathed in light as never before.
Kathleen caught sight of the look on Bridget's face as her eyes
moved to the ceiling and walls. It was a look of shock and
disappointment. Kathleen looked up and around, and saw that the
lighting had exposed cracks, cob webs, peeling paint and water
stains that were never quite noticeable before.
Bridget shook her head and said, "See I told you it was more trouble
than it was worth. Now you have all that mess to contend with."
The following Monday, Bridget was out tending her garden as usual.
But Kathleen was nowhere to be seen. Bridget walked around to the
side of the cottage and peered through the window. There she saw
Kathleen on a ladder scraping and scouring the walls of her newly
lighted sitting room.
"What a lot of bother," thought Bridget as she turned back to her
gardening. "Such a lot of bother!"
-- Source unknown
Letting the light of Christ into our lives, often puts us at risk of exposing the messiness of our lives and, frankly, that often makes life more complicated. The light of Christ draws attention to the peeling paint of hidden attitudes of discrimination towards groups of people whose religion, race or way of life are different from ours. The light of Christ allows us to see clearly the veiled cobwebs of addicted behavior. The light that is Christ illumines those "hard to reach places" that we try to avoid—that “slip our minds.” The Book of Chronicles relates the story of God’s frustration with the Israelites who had failed to remember, as part of their worship, the compassion and the mercy of their God. They failed to remember that the story of God’s steadfast love was part of their story. It was that failed memory that led to their seventy-year exile in Babylon. But the ever faithful Yahweh chose King Cyrus, a foreigner, to liberate them – the most unlikely of all rescuers is sent to restore their inheritance. In the same way the Word of God calls us in our day to retrieve our "lost Sabbaths," to take time to restore and renew ruptured relationships by remembering the mercy and compassion of our God. These final weeks of Lent can be just such a time to remember the story of our own broken, frail human nature while we recognize and acknowledge, especially in our Sunday celebration, that we will, in the words of the Psalmist, never again forget the gracious gift of God’s compassion in the person of Jesus. St. Paul reminds us that the light won for us by Christ's suffering and death is a gift freely given.
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
Perhaps it’s the milieu in which we live, but we find it very difficult to admit our dependence on anyone or any thing. That remarkable independent spirit so reverenced by our culture doesn’t work well in our relationship with God. As people of faith we must acknowledge with Paul: all is grace -- a gift that demands a response. We gather to worship as people of faith for that very reason. The word “Eucharist” is from the Greek eucharistia, which means “to give thanks.” Our celebration is rooted in remembering God's love and giving thanks.
In the Gospel, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, comes to Jesus at night seeking the light of truth. We do the same by coming here to worship. The light of Christ can serve as a beacon to lead us as disciples of Christ to a true change of heart so that we may find our way to retrieve our “lost Sabbaths.” We pray at this Eucharist that the Light of Christ will illumine the hidden recesses of our hearts and so bring us to the healing and wholeness of Easter joy.