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Bible Reflections View Comments

In Darkness, We Come to Love the Light
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012
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The great composer Ludwig von Beethoven composed some of his best work, including the Ninth Symphony with its soaring Ode to Joy, after he had gone totally deaf. In the profound silence around him, he was still able to hear an inner music and translate that into something to share with the world. He is not unique in this, but how great artists accomplish this transformation is always a mystery.

The best works of literature and drama in our culture show us characters who grow through suffering. We, too, become fully rounded human beings through the struggles of our lives. Those who never know suffering and obstacles often remain shallow and unaware of the sufferings of others. Lest we think that this darkness is part of the fall of humanity, and that truly holy people live in unrelieved light, the lives of the saints and the words of our Scriptures remind us that the holiest among us often face the darkest burdens.

In our first reading from Wisdom, we hear the enemies of “the just one” plotting to place obstacles in his path for the sole purpose of driving him from his steadfast faith in God. St. John of the Cross coined the term “the dark night of the soul” to describe the sense of abandonment by God that he experienced. All of this is not to say that suffering is a good in itself, that the more we take on, the greater we will be. This is the mistake that the spiritually ambitious often make. There’s enough suffering in the world without our manufacturing more. And we’ve all known people who were made bitter and cynical by the suffering they endured.

Exactly how we grow through suffering isn’t always clear. But it seems essential that we face the obstacles and challenges in our lives by staying close to God in the dark times. In order to do this, we need to build up a close relationship to God during the good times in our life as well. We need to know God and love God in order to hold on to his promise to be with us, even in the midst of darkness. Blessed Mother Teresa made headlines several years after her death when her journals revealed that in the midst of the most holy and selfless dedication to the poorest of the poor, she often felt an emptiness where the presence of Christ should have filled her soul. But she heeded Jesus’s words about becoming the least of all and the servant of all. In caring for those who had no one else to care for them, she found a way to live with her inner darkness. In doing so, she became a light for all those who encountered her or heard her story. Mark’s Gospel makes no secret of the fact that the center of the story of Jesus is his passion and death. Mark’s original audience was being persecuted for following Christ. Mark wanted to let them know in no uncertain terms that the very suffering they were called to endure was part of the plan. I heard one preacher put it this way, “For Mark, if you haven’t suffered for the Gospel, you haven’t lived the Gospel.” Jesus warns his followers that if they have expectations of temporal glory, of material wealth, of satisfied ambition, they will be disappointed and ultimately condemned. But the promise he offers them—and us—is that if they’re willing to go through the darkness, the light on the other side will be that much more dazzling.


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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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