I drove through a dramatic thunderstorm on a recent Sunday to attend early mass at a stately old church in a small, rural town. The power had gone out and the inside of the church was as black as a cave. We all sat quietly in the dark while ushers began to light an array of candles, and I reflected on the symbol of light and darkness as we Christians use it.
Just a few weeks ago, at the Easter vigil, we sat in darkness until the pascal fire was lit. Even before the fire was passed on to the Pascal Candle and from there to our vigil candles, that fire broke the darkness, ruined it, reaching every eye and casting light on every surface inside the church. Even just a small light in a very dark place has such power. Darkness is unable to respond. In a brightly lit place, a small spot of darkness has no power to dim its surroundings.
This view of light as a symbol for good which overwhelms darkness is very different from a dualistic, yin-yang view which sees opposites as balanced forces which complement one another. And especially for us, Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, light and sunshine are images of the power of the Holy Spirit which sends us forth in mission.
Our founder, Father Judge, often used the image of the power of light.
“The Holy Spirit is to our souls what the sun in the heaven is to the world….
He gives us light. He gives us warmth. He fills us with brightness and joy.”
As followers of Jesus, we believe good overcomes evil, that life and love are stronger than death, and that Jesus is the light of the world. But as we grow beyond “mere” discipleship and become apostles, become missionaries, a larger horizon comes into view. Jesus told us very clearly, “You are the light of the world.” We aren’t simply turtles on a log, basking in the sun. We are agents of this light. We ourselves become this power for good in the world.
So, we bring light into dark places simply by showing up. There is always work to be done, but our mere presence, as agents, as missionaries, can be enough. One of my favorite passages from the conferences of Father Judge is his description of community life when Brother Sunshine and Sister Amiable move into the house. I’ll close with a quote from these words he gave in 1930, slightly edited.
Sister Amiable and Brother Sunshine are good-hearted, generous, simple, they keep the rules. They are prayerful. They radiate peace, they radiate sunshine. It isn’t quite so dark when they are in the house. They seem to rub off the rough edges. How do they do it? I do not know. But in no instance are they on parade. They are not showing off to everyone. You just get the idea they are thankful they are Missionary Servants.
We should always be missionaries. We should not appear as a dietitian, a financier, a teacher. We should appear first as men and women of God: as a Missionary. We should impress people as Missionary Servants. What kind of an impression do you give people? Your spirit is a gracious Spirit, an easy spirit. If I do say so you have an attractive spirit. You do not act austere, as a holy penitent, as a reformer. I wish you to have the zeal to be Father Popular, Sister Amiable, Brother Sunshine. Work at that, the zeal to forget yourselves. You will attract souls. You will bring vocations to the Cenacle. But you are not going to be amiable until you forget yourself.
Blog writer Sister Deborah Wilson, MSBT is currently serving on the MSBT General Council in Philadelphia, PA.