Yesterday, we Church Guys discussed the first two chapters of the First Letter of St. John. John’s use of light/dark imagery struck us quite clearly. The full meaning of the imagery seemed somewhat distant, though, and we struggled to grasp for ourselves the full force of John’s exhortation.
Last night, I came across Bl. John Paul II’s World Youth Day homily in Toronto in 2002. He began with these words:
1. On a hillside near the lake of Galilee, Jesus’s disciples listened to his gentle and urgent voice; asgentle as the landscape of Galilee itself, as urgent as a call to choose between life and death, between truth and falsehood. The Lord spoke words of life that would echo for ever in the hearts of his followers.
Today he is speaking the same words to you, the young people of Toronto and Ontario, of the whole of Canada, of the United States, of the Caribbean, of Spanish-speaking America and Portuguese-speaking America, of Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Listen to the voice of Jesus in the depths of your hearts! His words tell you who you are as Christians. They tell you what you must do to remain in his love.
2. But Jesus offers one thing, and the “spirit of the world” offers another. In today’s Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus leads us from darkness into light (cf. Eph 5,8). Perhaps the great Apostle is thinking of the light that blinded him, the persecutor of Christians, on the road to Damascus. When later he recovered his sight, nothing was as before. He had been born anew and nothing would ever take his new-found joy away from him.
You too are called to be transformed. “Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5, 14), says Saint Paul.
The “spirit of the world” offers many false illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people’s souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.
Compare the words “There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people’s souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love” with the first two chapters of John’s letter. Isn’t this exactly what John meant? False prophets — whether in religious garb or the sirens of a culture that proclaim that one can find “freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility” — literally darken and then extinguish the very light of Christ in young people’s souls. John’s letter is broader — he warns all of us about this danger and then exhorts all of us to fight it through faith in Christ.