I have a hard time with the winter and dark—I suffer from SAD: Seasonal Affect Disorder. I feel very affected by the longer dark; I even have a special lamp to shine upon me at home, and I try to stay busy. Aside from the coming darkness, I feel (today and lately) a pull toward worry: I worry about the election and after-election outcome; I worry about the effects of the pandemic on families, faith, and economics; I worry about the future of any kind of performing art and artists.
And, sometimes, we people of faith may find ourselves in a spiritual season of darkness—bestowed on us by circumstance and bad luck (or choices). A job loss, an unwanted divorce, the death of a loved one, the lingering illness of someone precious, the diminishing reserves of retirement, the bitter loss of the mind’s ability, a grievous wounding by a friend, the spiritual failure of a hero... any of these and many more hurts can leave us in a personal season of darkness. In this darkness, faith’s fire doesn’t burn as brightly, and its moments of shining don’t last as long. Life is much more a struggle and faith is very much a battle with our will.
This time of the year it is easy to fall in to the depths; everything points us that way—even the readings do so as we come to the end of our liturgical year, as they are about end times. Even what we hear in our faith seems like darkness, too.
So, how do we survive any spiritual (or physical) season of darkness? Where do we find fresh hope to continue what seems like a long and arduous journey of faith and living in the very midst of all the tribulation? The Gospel today gives us the answer: Look to your lamps! Each minute of this day is life; it comes once, and then the door is locked on it forever. Like the foolish virgins in Matthew's Gospel today, each of us holds a lamp that is going out. The oil of the parable, this Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, symbolizes the virtue and the interior illumination of those who have heard the Word of God and put it into practice. Is our jar filled with oil so that we may replenish it when we need to? Do we have reserves to help fill the lamps of those around us? Have we filled the jar of our lives with things that will give no light to us or anyone else? We must keep our lamps filled and lit like the wise virgins of today’s Gospel. This will help us to endure the darkness before the dawn. We need to remember how God brings us blessings, even in seasons of doubt and dark.
Since life can be a struggle and the spiritual dimensions of our life a battle, we often miss touches of grace, the surprising moments of joy and delight. However, if we look closely we will find them! God joins us in the dimmest parts of our darkness, and holy Wisdom is our guide! In our darkest of days He carries us and sustains us in so many ways: He sends friends to help with an encouraging word or a needed rebuke; He supplies us with increased strength to weather our nighttime storms; He prevents an unseen attack from the evil one when we are most vulnerable; He answers hundreds of our prayers (even when the one we most want seems to remain unaddressed); He speaks to us through His Spirit—filling our lamps in the songs we sing and with words of Scripture when we open ourselves up to his Word.
God pours love into our hearts through his Spirit and strengthens us in ways we cannot know in response to the prayers of others on our behalf. Yes, sometimes we face grueling periods of perseverance brought on by life’s trials or our own failures and sin. But even in a long, dark season, even in the darkest of nights that try our human soul, we are not abandoned. No matter what our circumstances suggest, God is faithful and has promised that the night will pass; we are not forsaken. No matter how long the night may seem, morning will come with joy! Hold on if you are in this season. And if you, yourself, are not currently in the dark, please help someone else fill their lamps with the oil of salvation. Point them to the Light until their darkness passes.
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: November is the month of remembrance for those who have passed on to eternal life. In the face of loss, we are given the hope of salvation. Another choral offering: “In Remembrance” from Requiem by Eleanor Daley—a song of hope and memory in the midst of death of all the things here and now that our loved ones are for us in this field of souls. Give it a listen—it brought tears to my eyes as I remembered those I love still…
In Remembrance: https://youtu.be/i95FX-xMaKA