Every human being, knowingly or unknowingly, from the moment of our creation are pilgrims of the Absolute, we originate with Him and we are headed to return to Him.
This pilgrimage is fundamentally possible because the Divine Pilgrim Himself has dwelt among us and, in the Eucharist primarily, but also in various other ways, remains with us as He Himself declares, promises: …I am with you always, even to the end of the age. [cf. Mt. 28.20]
I begin this meditation the evening of Ash Wednesday when the Church begins anew the annual pilgrimage with Jesus from His spiritual battle in the desert through His resolute journey, pilgrimage, to Calvary.
Now it is already evening of Monday of the first week of Holy Lent.
The meditation was set aside while attending to the needs of others, spending much time in prayer because of the extremely dangerous confrontation, taking place yes in Ukraine, but fundamentally between Russia and Western Democracies.
When Christ was incarnate and came to dwell among us Israel was an occupied country, the Roman Empire was engaged in many battles on its extended borders.
Hunger, violence, unemployment, oppression was rampant throughout the then ‘known’ world, and scholars these days have discovered much about other civilizations at the time throughout Asia, the Americas, Africa when human beings were struggling mightily to raise their families, protect the clan or tribe or region from others.
This is the human condition, this is the unfolding of human history, this is the challenge each day for human beings: to be born, grow and mature, discover self and other, to wonder about the universe, to wonder the who am I, why am I, to whence am I headed.
Left to ourselves….
But He who creates us to love us, lavishing among others of His gifts His love-gift of free will, understands us and how need of Him.
More through His incarnation He journeys, as we must from the womb to the tomb, on the path we follow, thus this pilgrimage we travel is more than just known to Him: He has marked the way for us with His Light, yes, more, with His blood.
While in this verse [1:10] St. John speaks in past tense, in reality we can embrace every word of Sacred Scripture as present tense, certainly as regards Jesus, both because of His promise: …I am with you always, even to the end of the age. [Mt.20.28] and the intimate reality of His being with us in Holy Mass, within us in every Holy Communion, and so: He was in the world, and the world was made through Him…[v.10]
Because we are blessed with five senses we are sensory beings, human beings blessed as well with imagination and memory, the capacity for creativity in art and science, forming of cultures and body politics, economics; we are builders of cities and farmers of the land; builders of ever more complex and beautiful modes of transportation, even to an international space station – which itself is not only testament to our creativity as builders but to our ability, if we choose, to cooperate across languages, cultures, religions and even non-religion.
Our failures when it comes to Ukraine or Syria, to AIDS and poverty, hunger and homelessness, racism and violence are not because we lack the God-given talent to use love’s imagination to live in true solidarity, rather it is because as in the days when Jesus walked the earth, so in our day:….and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. [Vs.10-11]
For more than a millennia Christendom, which since the fourth century has morphed into the ersatz ‘western civilization’ has been the dominant power base of economics, media, military might, a dominance which is if not waning is certainly as tattered and weakened at the edges as when the so-called barbarians began to nibble at the edges of the Roman empire.
If our desire to see a renewal of Christianity – and among other things Lent is a time for renewal, for rediscovery of our baptismal vocation and heritage – is to assure a resurgence of Western power, then we are not only on a fool’s journey, we have learnt nothing from history, and certainly nothing from the Gospel.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. [Vs. 12-13]
One of the crucial actions Holy Mother the Church invites us all to participate in during the Easter Vigil is the renewal of our Baptismal Promises because Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit…and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word. [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1213]
That is precisely what St. John is telling us about.
Certainly we must raise our voices for the hungry, the naked, the homeless, for an end to all forms of discrimination and hatred, strive to form political, economic systems which ensure global peace, a sustainable environment so our and future generations have food, medicine, freedom from fear of other human beings, but all our efforts will ultimately be as naught if we the baptized fail to be faithful to Jesus, to the Gospel.
Jesus came among us, is with us, because our loving Father heard/hears the cries of His children dwelling in a world still in so much darkness.
Millions are the voices raised to deny the presence of the Church in society.
Most tragically many are the voices of former Christians, for they tend to be the most angry and aggressive enemies of the faith, and in their anger they reject the presence of Jesus in the world through the reality of light-bearing, compassion-bearing, love-bearing, truth-speaking presence of Christians.
If we care about the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Syria and Ukraine, as but two examples some distance away, likewise if we care about the suffering of our brothers and sisters dumpster diving in the alley, or out of sight in some dark place of hopelessness, then we must this Lent receive Jesus anew.
The alternative is to choose darkness and chaos beyond anything we can imagine.