by Jeff Hedglen
There’s been only one time in my life when I was in total darkness.
It was so dark that I put my hand one inch in front of my face and could not see it, not even a shadow or an outline, nothing. I knew my hand was in front of my eyes because I could feel my breath hit the skin and because my brain had sent signals to my hand to raise it to this position. But these were the only indications. It was an eerie experience to have my eyes wide open and see absolutely nothing.
This occurred in a cavern beneath the earth’s surface in central Texas.
The tour guide had instructed each of us tofinda place to sit down, and we were strongly urged not to move around. Then he turned the lights out. Pitch dark. Wow.
The guide let us sit in the darkness for a minute or so, and then began to tell the story of creation from the Book of Genesis. When he got to the “let there be light” part, a tiny sliver of light, like a white laser beam, pierced the darkness and landed on a rock formation. This minuscule amount of light washed away the immense darkness. The power of light over darkness had never been so palpable to me.
This week’s readings speak of another people in darkness who see a great light. Matthew’s Gospel quotes the prophet Isaiah: “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen” (Is 9:1). Matthew says that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy, that he is the light that dispels the darkness.
The darkness that Jesus dispels is sin and death. His piercing light reveals our sin, just as that tiny beam allowed me to see my hand again. But his light does more than reveal. It heals, forgives and continues to shine upon us, leading us into everlasting light.