Terrifying Choices

pine coffin

A deep, terrifying darkness enveloped Abraham… A cloud came and cast a shadow over Peter, James, and John, and they became frightened. (Genesis 15:12, Luke 9:34)

Frightening darkness. The good, loving Lord leads the people who are closest to Him into…the dark. [Spanish]

Now, wait a minute. In the beginning, God said “let there be light.”  When He walked the earth, He declared, “I am the light of the world.” St. John taught us: “In God there is no darkness at all.”

Why, then, does the Eternal Light lead the people he loves into the terrifying darkness?

As we talked about last week, the Lord Jesus entered the darkness first. He went out into the desert for forty days and fasted. He became ravenously hungry, utterly exhausted, and weak. Humanly speaking, He had nothing left. Darkness enveloped Him. Satan came to tempt Him into disobedience.

The greatest battles take place in darkness. When the lights are on, we can hedge our bets: We can say we love God, Whom we don’t see, and at the same time we can love the things we see. We can go to church and eat ice cream. We can say our prayers and watch basketball.

But sometimes things get scary, and that’s when we have to make a choice. When we lose our little comforts; when we don’t see how things are going to turn out; when we don’t really know what’s going on—that’s when we face the stark choice.

Easter Vigil London Oratory
an Easter Vigil Mass in London a few years ago

Either: I stand fast and obey the law of God, even though I don’t see any good that is going to come out of it. Or I let the devil use the darkness to trick me into giving up on God.

There was a moment in each of our lives that had all the drama of this stark choice. Most of us probably don’t remember, because we were just little babies when it happened. The most dramatic event in each of our lives: Holy Baptism.

These are the questions that our parents and godparents answered on our behalf:

Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises? Do you reject the glamour of evil? Do you reject the prince of darkness?

There is a mystery here: The devil is the prince of darkness. He darkens minds; he confuses and obfuscates. But he does it by offering glamorous things. Satan darkens by dazzling. He confuses by enchanting. He blinds us by enticing our eyes.

…Then our parents and godparents answered this question: Do you believe in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do you believe?

More mystery: God is the eternal light. But the only way to Him is through the darkness of faith. He is eternal wisdom. But He demands that we believe what we do not see. He is the great liberator, the emancipator of slaves. But He calls us to unquestioning obedience of His eternal decrees.

devilLent is the time for us to turn out all the lights, sit in the dark, and choose God. Lent is when we make our baptismal promises again—in the dark depths of our hearts—with more conviction, less distraction, focused only on the essentials. I reject Satan. I believe in God.

Everything that I see is passing away. Everything that comforts me on earth, every little lamp that lights up a corner of the world and makes it cozy for me—sooner or later all those lamps will go out, and I will lie in a coffin.

Do I truly reject Satan and the passing glamour of evil? Am I content to live a humble life of unswerving faith? Do I believe in the promises of Christ and stand on them alone? Am I ready to let go of absolutely everything, if that is what obedience to God demands? Am I prepared to wait patiently, with no comfort in this world, for Christ to come again?

Scary, yes. The most basic facts of life, death, faith, and sin–scary.  Eternity is scary. Satan is scary. God is scary.

Scary. But I’ll tell you what. We are going to say Yes to all these questions. We are going to say: Yes, we reject Satan and his tricks and lies and traps and nonsense. Yes, we will walk humbly with God, even if it means suffering the buffets and spitting of the world. Yes, we will wait on Christ, trusting in His wonderful promises. We will hold fast to the One in whom we believe, and let go of everything else. We will stand as Christians and Catholics until the last day, no matter what happens between now and then.

You know why we can say all this with such confidence? Because we know that in the end, the light is going to come on. The darkness is not forever. The obscurity of faith is not forever; humble obedience is not forever; suffering for the truth is not forever. It is all temporary.

The glory of God is forever. The Beauty of the undying truth, the Holy Face of the Savior, the splendid city of the saints—all this is forever.  The Kingdom of Light is forever, the everlasting day when night comes no more. We believe and trust and wait for that light.  It will be worth waiting for.

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