The Darkness of this World
Let your light so shine before men.
"The poor man is devoured by the pride of the wicked:
he is caught in the schemes that others have made." (Ps 10:2)
The darkness of this world lies not in the various pains, strivings, and sufferings themselves but rather in our inattentiveness and lack of love in responding to them, or our lack of love in contributing to them. That we are so very often turned in upon ourselves, concerned with our own particular selfish interests so that we become blinded by our own darkness and miss the very many opportunities that God has given us to heal each other and restore creation--that is the great evil of this world.
If there were no lack, no need, we would more easily condense into black holes, sucking in and destroying any light shed upon us, endlessly craving more with no care at all for the other, completely cut off and completely isolated. There is, perhaps, no better analogy for hell than such self consumption and self absorption. This is the "outer darkness" (Matt 8:12) where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth," a gnashing of teeth because there is nothing left to consume--we have eaten all that was given us and can only then consume ourselves, for ever and ever. Whatever good we are given, whatever light reaches us, we suck in and destroy, forever holding it within our own darkness.
Every lack in the created order and, especially, in each other is an invitation for us to love, to turn out of ourselves, to give of ourselves and release the light that we have been given, in order to restore and to heal. In this very act of giving of ourselves to heal, we ourselves are healed. We are little by little turned away from the blackness, from the all-consuming void that would in the end forever isolate us.
Conversely, every time we turn away from those in need, every time we turn a blind eye or close our ears, we turn a little more in on ourselves, we absorb and suppress the light a little more. We make ourselves into our own little hell.
Many see the commands and counsels to generosity towards our neighbor and the least among us given us by Christ as somehow lessening us, as only some kind of suffering being asked of us or, worse, as some kind of quid pro quo purchase of eternal life. It is, on the contrary, the very mystery of the Cross, which He Himself showed us. We reach our Good not in clinging onto the goods that we have received but rather in letting go of them and sharing them with others.
The whole of creation and the economy of salvation is ordered to promote this generosity of love. Pain, suffering, and lack are allowed so that we may contribute to filling in the lack, easing the suffering, and healing the pain. Love is the fundamental nature of reality. God created contingent being (us, the angels, and the whole cosmos) so that he could be even more generous in his love, and he allows and invites us to share in that bestowal of good on other contingent being, and to return that good to Himself. We are invited into to the eternal loving-giving life of the Trinity.
And so we can, instead of becoming black holes of hell in ourselves rather become bright and shining stars of God's love, shedding the warmth of his goodness on others and on the whole of creation. By taking up our crosses--by willingly sacrificing for others--we contribute to and participate in the wondrous plan of God to "bring all things into one in Christ." (Eph 1:10) In doing this, we "fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ." (Col 1:24)
Rather than our sacrifices, offerings, and sufferings being a source of fear and avoidance, then, we can instead readily embrace the Cross in eagerness to love, with great confidence, with hope and joy and a peace that passes all understanding that we are being conformed to the image of the Son (Ro 8:29), that we are becoming the light of the world (Matt 5:14), and that we are contributing to God's working all things for the good of those that love him (Ro 8:28).
Let us pray that we all may better embrace the Cross!