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In Darkness, We Come to Love the Light
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012
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The great composer Ludwig von Beethoven composed some of his best work, including the Ninth Symphony with its soaring Ode to Joy, after he had gone totally deaf. In the profound silence around him, he was still able to hear an inner music and translate that into something to share with the world. He is not unique in this, but how great artists accomplish this transformation is always a mystery.

The best works of literature and drama in our culture show us characters who grow through suffering. We, too, become fully rounded human beings through the struggles of our lives. Those who never know suffering and obstacles often remain shallow and unaware of the sufferings of others. Lest we think that this darkness is part of the fall of humanity, and that truly holy people live in unrelieved light, the lives of the saints and the words of our Scriptures remind us that the holiest among us often face the darkest burdens.

In our first reading from Wisdom, we hear the enemies of “the just one” plotting to place obstacles in his path for the sole purpose of driving him from his steadfast faith in God. St. John of the Cross coined the term “the dark night of the soul” to describe the sense of abandonment by God that he experienced. All of this is not to say that suffering is a good in itself, that the more we take on, the greater we will be. This is the mistake that the spiritually ambitious often make. There’s enough suffering in the world without our manufacturing more. And we’ve all known people who were made bitter and cynical by the suffering they endured.

Exactly how we grow through suffering isn’t always clear. But it seems essential that we face the obstacles and challenges in our lives by staying close to God in the dark times. In order to do this, we need to build up a close relationship to God during the good times in our life as well. We need to know God and love God in order to hold on to his promise to be with us, even in the midst of darkness. Blessed Mother Teresa made headlines several years after her death when her journals revealed that in the midst of the most holy and selfless dedication to the poorest of the poor, she often felt an emptiness where the presence of Christ should have filled her soul. But she heeded Jesus’s words about becoming the least of all and the servant of all. In caring for those who had no one else to care for them, she found a way to live with her inner darkness. In doing so, she became a light for all those who encountered her or heard her story. Mark’s Gospel makes no secret of the fact that the center of the story of Jesus is his passion and death. Mark’s original audience was being persecuted for following Christ. Mark wanted to let them know in no uncertain terms that the very suffering they were called to endure was part of the plan. I heard one preacher put it this way, “For Mark, if you haven’t suffered for the Gospel, you haven’t lived the Gospel.” Jesus warns his followers that if they have expectations of temporal glory, of material wealth, of satisfied ambition, they will be disappointed and ultimately condemned. But the promise he offers them—and us—is that if they’re willing to go through the darkness, the light on the other side will be that much more dazzling.

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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was never a careerist or a glory-monger; he did not demand to be hailed as a king or lauded as a hero. He came to live among us, to suffer with us, and to serve us from the heart. He came to teach us how to love.

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