Jesus said something in yesterday’s Gospel (4thSunday in Lent) that I think we can apply to our current troubles:
While it is daytime, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4).
A purely natural understanding would be that the passage is merely noting that worked stopped at sundown by necessity in those times, but of course the text is far deeper. Let’s ponder two related spiritual meanings and apply them to this time of crisis.
First, as St. Ambrose observes of this text, “Daytime is this present life; night is death and the time that follows death” [*]. He then warns us have a sober fear of death and to realize that now is the time to accept what God is offering because tomorrow is not promised.
In the midst of this pandemic, we are enduring something of a foretaste of “death.” For most of us the crisis will not result in our physical death, but many things we freely did just a couple of weeks ago are for the time being dead to us. We cannot do much of the work we normally do; we cannot follow through on most of the plans we made. A “night” of sorts has come upon us. However, many things are still available to us, things we may have previously neglected: prayer, reading of Scripture, repenting of our sins, spending time with family, calling old friends. How will we use this time?
Second, this passage resonates with the great battle between light and darkness, the predominant theme of John’s Gospel.The battle cry is announced in the Prologue:
In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it(John 1:4-5).
In John chapter 3, Jesus sets forth the drama of the battle for each individual:
And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God(John 3:19-21).
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus heals the man born blind and brings him into the Kingdom of Light. This Gospel also demonstrates the spiritual darkness of those who stubbornly resist Jesus, the Light of the World. From Jesus comes this warning and judgment:
For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind may see and those who see may become blind(John 6:39).
And then Jesus’ “hour” came: the hour to confront the kingdom of darkness through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Judas goes out to betray Jesus, and of this event John simple writes,
And it was night (John 13:30b).
Jesus’ words in Sunday’s Gospel remind us of the great battle that is all around us. It is a battle for souls, beginning with our own, but extending to family and friends. In our complacency, we often forget this great and dramatic battle. Many of our diversions and preoccupations are not available to us in this crisis; we are heading into a kind of spiritual desert. We have to take the time to ask ourselves important questions: Where am I going with my life? Do I know the Lord? Are my priorities pleasing to Him? Am I fulfilling my responsibility to teach the faith to my family and to announce the kingdom to others? For what sins do I need to repent? For what should I be grateful? When “normal life” resumes, what will I have learned? Will I apply it?
Yes, in a time like this we can see more clearly the dramatic battle that each of us is caught up in. Take some time to better engage the battle, for yourself and for others. If you find a good fight, get in it. The fight for souls is a good one! Pray, fast, talk, and witness. Seek the light of the many online offerings from the Church and from fellow believers that have proliferated in recent weeks.
Use this time wisely. The virus may go away, but the battle will continue until your final breath.