ALL OF YOU, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, ARE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE LIGHT, AND OF THE DAY. WE DO NOT BELONG TO THE NIGHT OR TO DARKNESS. As St. Paul makes clear in this same passage, the light we belong to is Christ himself. "For", he writes, "God did not purpose you for anger but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us that we should live with him." At the end of this same Epistle to the Thessalonians Paul explains how we are to conduct ourselves in order to live with Christ: "Correct the disorderly, encourage the faint hearted, support the weak, be patient with everyone.... Test everything; hold on to what is good and reject every kind of evil."
These words take on a greater urgency when we remember that the congregation to which Paul wrote them was sorely tried. These recent converts to the faith were persecuted by the large local Jewish community and encountering each day the immorality and license of a pagan society. To Paul's immense relief and joy they had proved surprisingly firm and stood steadfast in the faith. He sought to strengthen them by teaching them further concerning the implications of the teaching they had already accepted and to encourage their fervor. "Rejoice at all times; pray without ceasing, and in all things give thanks."
We are invited to take these words to heart ourselves, my brothers and sisters. We too live in a society where the works of darkness are multiplied until what had only recently been considered immoral or even shocking is widely accepted or at any rate tolerated. Analysis of the orgy of sexual and physical violence at the Hartford rock concert, for example, leaves not only the experts puzzled as to its motivation, but the perpetrators themselves. One troublemaker at a similar, earlier violent occasion commented that "We knew we had to go back to dull, boring lives and wanted something to remember Woodstock by." The light of truth is essential for a meaningful life. As evil spreads, the minds and consciences of many grow confused so that they cannot discern the light where it shines. When so many call the light darkness and the darkness light those who are not firmly rooted in the good, and who do not know the Lord Jesus waver and grow uncertain.
As Paul well appreciated we all have need of the witness of a community of faith that allows the light of Christ to appear in its clarity. By the gift of our faith we have received the Holy Spirit and are called to live in chastity, justice and charity. We are to find our joy and our strength in prayer, in the community of the faithful, and in turn to give support to those of the faithful whom we encounter especially to those who come precisely to seek encouragement and a deepening of their life in Christ. As we share in the Eucharist today we are reminded by these words of Paul that we belong to one another because we belong to Christ. The Lord calls us to a life of holiness and peace not only for our self but for all whom he has redeemed with the blood of his cross. Let us respond as the apostle urges us, by putting his words into effect: Correct the disorderly, encourage the faint hearted, support the weak, be patient with everyone.... Test everything; hold on to what is good and reject every kind of evil... and may the God of peace wholly sanctify you."
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
© Abbey of the Genesee
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