Saturday, October 4, 2008


Luke 11: 33 - 36

[33] "No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. [34] Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. [35] See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. [36] Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you."

Luke puts these words into the mouth of Jesus. They contain more truth than a lot of people can deal with. We all go through life experiencing the lack of truth around us. We all go through life wondering who among us is living the truth through and through. There are very few people, if any, who shine brightly with the inner truth of God’s presence. Like the philosopher Diogenes, we find ourselves living in a barrel, walking the streets in broad daylight carrying a lighted lamp, seeking an honest person shining with internal truth, fearless in sharing it. Mostly what we find are people who consider what they do and what they say as truthful because it accommodates their opinion and their comfort zone. I’m sure that you’re looking for examples. OK, here we go. Look for yourself here, because you and I are here somewhere.

“Are you honest in all that you do?”
“I certainly am”
“Do you know anyone who is completely honest?”
“HHmmmm, well… not really.”
“So, you don’t trust anyone else then?”
“Well, I trust some people.”
“So they are completely honest, then?”
“Well, not really.”
“So, why do you trust them?”
“Well, because I know them.”
“So what you mean is that you know what not to trust them with?”
“Isn’t that a little confusing? Do you make mistakes sometimes?”
“Oh, yes I do. But then I know how to protect myself against that person’s weakness.”
“Do you have a test that you can use?”
“I have one for money and one for time.”
“Let’s try the money one first.”
“If you ask me to borrow $5.00 I will never say ‘no’ the first time.”
“Yes, really. I have a conviction that $5.00 is an inexpensive way to find a friend.”
“So, what about the ‘time’ test?”
“I am always punctual. I give everyone about 3 minutes’ leeway for appointments. If a person makes me wait longer than that, even the first time, I will no longer trust that person to be on time no matter what.”
“Isn’t everyone late now and then?”
“Of course, that’s why I said that there are no honest people except me.”
“So you have dishonest friends?”
“No, I have dishonest acquaintances who think that I am their friend.”
“Doesn’t that make you dishonest?”

It is true that we live in a world that is complicated. For some reason it is practically impossible for us to be as pure and truthful as the light of the candle. The candle never lies. When it is not lit, it isn’t very useful. There are times when even when it is lit, it is not useful, such as in broad daylight. Then again, there are times when in broad daylight a lit candle can be useful…such as helping to take away the odor of cooked fish from the room. Then again, an unlit candle can also serve as a simple decoration in a small room. St. Luke’s example of a candle then, can carry more than one lesson. Perhaps the most basic one is that a candle is never anything but a candle. We children of God can appear to be candles of truth and honesty, but in reality affect the world in deceiving ways. The difficulty that we have is that we consider ourselves to be truthful and honest. We don’t ever worry about our lack of honesty or truthful purity. Part of the reality of this is that there are several faces to the truth as we know it. Let’s take a professional athlete as an example. Again, look for yourself here, we are all here.

Executive: “Professional Athlete, you’ve been good for this team for several years now.”
P.A. “Thanks. I enjoy being here.”
Ex. “It’s good having you. We do have a little problem though.”
P.A. “OK, let’s here it.”
Ex. “We are having a cash problem. We will not be able to renew your contract.”
P.A. “Really? I don’t make as much as certain others on the team.”
Ex. “That is true, but your salary is closer to the amount that we have to cut than the others. You know how that is, it’s kind of like eating your cake without seeing it disappear.”
P.A. “OK, so I guess I don’t have a choice, right?”
Ex. “Sadly, we have made a corporate decision, and you are it.”

Every reader of adult age knows that there is some truth and some untruth contained in this conversation. The Professional Athlete may not know what the other two or three facets of the truth regarding his relationship with the team are. Perhaps it is the Giant who doesn’t like small people; or it’s the Neat Freak who doesn’t like slobs; perhaps it is the union steward who hates the fact that Professional Athlete refuses to join the union. Professional Athlete may never know the true reason why he was cut from the team. The Executive will sleep well every single night because he will be comfortable that he didn’t lie to the Professional Athlete. He’ll never once think that he wasn’t honest because after all what he did say was in some ways the more compelling part of the whole truth.

So we are left with the conviction that there are no honest people in the world, except ourselves. We are convinced that even the pastors and bishops of our church are not perfectly honest in their relationship with the world.
We faithful church goers too are often left wondering about just how honest our leaders are. We see our pastors come and go. We see our teachers come and go. Often we are left with nothing but neutral pulpit announcements; often we are left with nothing except the disappearance of a name from the bulletin after the appearance of a new face on campus. These events always make us wonder about the basic honesty in our environment. Where is the candle? Is it lit? Is it off? Is it under a bushel?

We faithful Catholic churchgoers know where to look for the candle. We walk into the church and we see it burning calmly and steadfastly just before the sacramental home of Jesus Christ. The red candle is our beacon of honesty. That red candle is the light on the mountaintop. It is the presence of Jesus Christ transfigured before our very eyes, twenty-four hours a day, into the hot flame of love and justification. It is the light of generosity, of hospitality and of constant comfort. It is the light that no human can extinguish. It is the light that never stops giving, never stops guiding and never stops warming our hearts. No matter how complex our world of fractional truth becomes, the light hanging in the house of God is not fragmented. It is whole. It is Holy. It is simple. It is one. It calls us to be honest, to be simple, to be loving and generous. It lights the path that leads to the One for whom it burns. Let’s let it set our hearts on fire with the Love that fired up the heart of Jesus.

If we follow that light, it will guide us to the eternal happiness of heaven. If we follow that light, there will never be any crying at my funeral nor at anyone else’s.