The Easter Vigil which we recently have celebrated begins with fire and the Paschal (Easter) Candle. Christ’s light illumines a dark Church. It naturally attracts the focus of our eyes, our prayer, and our heart.
Jesus is the light of the world. The Gospel of St John offers us a meditation on the Lord’s entrance into the world and man’s response. “ … The Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (Jn. 3:19-20)
In our weakness and sin we know this dynamic of light and darkness all too well. We can use this analogy about light and darkness to make our examination of conscience. What do I do, or think, or say – secretly, privately – that I do not wish others to see? Would I want all my actions known?
Of course there is always legitimate confidentiality. The virtues of prudence and modesty remain vital. But there are also the ‘deeds of darkness,’ the things that we know, in good conscience, are not part of our dignity as children of the Eternal Father. These convict our souls. They make us feel uneasy; or they ought to.
Sometimes people laugh in ridicule of “Catholic guilt.” To this I say, “Thanks be to God for Catholic guilt.” This sense of right and wrong is the gift of a conscience that must be formed carefully and objectively by the enduring commandments of God, the authentic Catholic magisterium of the ages, and the natural law.
"Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths." (Gaudium et Spes, no. 16, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1776)
Indeed the prescripts of the moral law are constant and binding. St John Paul II taught in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, “When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the ‘poorest of the poor’ on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality, we are all absolutely equal.” (no. 96)
Without the objective moral principles revealed in Scripture and Tradition, the delusions of the world can fool us; its fleeting pleasures and superficial values can lead us down a path that goes nowhere good; that wide paved path to hell. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Mt 7:13)
For example, the internet is a great tool for rapid access to information and for communication, but constantly it opens for us, in our private room, a portal of what can quickly include darkness and sin.
There is the danger of error and misinformation; “fake news.” There is the wide path of pornography which destroys millions of souls and which daily is being accessed even by the youngest and most tender and vulnerable hearts.
The computer can also entrap by consuming our time and attention disproportionately. The specific content may not be illicit, but curiosity can quickly supplant legitimate study. Our life’s energies are dissipated. In an earlier age, the more likely culprit was television.
Christ came to break the darkness. The Prologue to John’s Gospel (Jn 1: 1-18) reveals Jesus, the Eternal Word. He is “the light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (Jn 1:5) Another translation suggests, “….and the darkness has not overcome it.” In either case, the world cannot comprehend the Light of Christ. Neither can it overcome the Light of Christ!
The Easter message of hope and the power of the risen Christ help us to persevere in the midst of darkness of our sins, even our habitual sins. Our Lord came to break the darkness. Our conversion always begins in Him. We must seek the grace of Confession. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, (see Hb. 12:2) the Light which shines in the darkest night.
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world….. To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (Jn 1: 9,12)
From the Exsultet: The Proclamation of Easter
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.