Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness… Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret… Awake O Sleeper”! (Eph 5:8-9; 11-12; 14)
In one of our recent weekly parish instructions on The Sacraments narrated by Father Matthew Kauth (St. Benedict Press), we cited a point from the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor. In his teaching on sin, St. Thomas points out that the gravest effect of sin is the darkening of the sinner’s intellect. This is to say that the person engaged in serious sin may no longer recognize his sin, as sin. Such a person will even come to favor dark and shadowy things, just as the truth and the light of God will grow to dismay and frustrate him. If this person be of a weak nature, he will simply hide from the light. However, if he be strong, he will try to defeat the light and all those who bear it.
During Lent, in the Daily Office of the Church, we pray these words of Psalm 36: “Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. He so flatters himself in his mind that he knows not his guilt… All wisdom is gone”. The psalmist continues: “[The sinner] plots the defeat of goodness as he lies on his bed”. What this means by way of examples is that the one who covets his neighbor’s wife plots the defeat of marriage; the one who plans an abortion plots the defeat of creation; while the one who rises early to purchase all the toilet paper in the store plots the defeat of justice!
Now the remedy for the ignorance and forgetfulness brought on by our sins is found in Psalm 51: “… in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom”. However, it seems impossible that the one who knows not his sin will pray this without an acknowledgment of his sin! So we must pray for him even if he be our enemy (Mt 5:44), believing that nothing will be impossible for God (Lk 1:37).
We place on our bulletin cover for this 4th Sunday in Lent an image painted by William Holman Hunt, entitled The Light of the World (1851). Hunt was a British painter of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood whose Romantic works were chock-full of religious symbolism.
Here we see Christ bringing light to the sinner’s soul. He comes at night indicated by the stars dotted above and behind him. On the ground near his feet are apples fallen from the tree, a sign that this soul has not been vigilant in keeping up with the spiritual harvest. Even the door that the Lord knocks upon has the growth and stubble of spent flowers blocking its entrance. Unkempt vines descend from the roof over the domicile. Thankfully, Jesus, whose halo appears as a harvest moon, has come knocking at this soul looking to enter with his golden lamp of salvific light. He peers out at us as if to say, “Awake O Sleeper”… put away at last your fruitless works of darkness which you keep and store away in the unlit closet of your mind and heart.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services