I personally have a hard time with the winter and dark—I, like many, suffer from SAD: Seasonal Affect Disorder. I feel very affected by the longer dark; I have a special lamp to shine upon me at home and I try to stay busy. Sometimes, though, we people of faith may find ourselves in a spiritual season of longer darkness. 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 longer 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.
So, how do we survive a spiritual season of longer darkness? Where do we find fresh hope to continue what seems like a long and arduous journey of faith? Look to your lamps! 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. How? We need to remember how God brings us blessings, even in the darkness.
Because 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 our days He carries us and sustains us in so many ways: He sends a friend 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 with other believers, and with words of Scripture when we open ourselves up to his Word. He pours his 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. We are not abandoned. No matter what our circumstances suggest, our 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 its joy! So 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.
And Keep Singing!