Saul hears the words on the road to Damascus, “I am Jesus whom, you are persecuting.” Jesus identifies himself with the victims of Saul’s hatred for Christian. In so doing, Jesus reaffirms his identity with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized throughout history. Saul is blinded. He lives in darkness. Jesus will remove the scales. Paul will see the light and the world will be changed.
The reading from John affirms that we are speaking about Eucharist. The Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus-tortured, broken, crucified but RISEN! When we celebrate Eucharist the entire Body of Christ is present. Joining us are the child dying of starvation in India, the woman dying of AIDS in Africa, the campesino disapperaed in the Global South, people of color imprisoned unjustly in America-these are a the members of the body of Christ who join us at the table.
We are one with all these people. Merton, standing awe struck at the corner of Fourth and Walnut understood this. Ensconced in the solitude of Gethsemani, he suddenly realized that he was not apart from the human, race, the body of Christ. He was one with all the people who were walking around shining like the sun-full of the presence of the Risen Jesus.
Like Saul we seek God. Like Saul we seek God in darkness. Occasionally, Jesus, the light of the world, lets his light sine on us and in us. Most of our journey is in darkness. We encounter the darkness of racism, classism, militarism, sexism, and clericalism. We see poverty, war and death. All appears to be dark.
If we are waiting to see everything in the light of Christ and not in the darkness, we are, to paraphrase the song, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” This also reminds me of the story of the drunk on the way home from the bar. He is crawling around on hands and knees on the pavement under the street light. A policeman approaches and asks, “What are you doing?” The drunk replies,”I am looking for the car keys I lost.” The policeman gets down on all fours and starts to help him look. Frustrated the policeman finally says, “Where did you lose them?” The drunk replies, “Somewhere on this street?” “Why then are you looking here?” The drunk, now exasperated, says, “Because this is where the light is.” Maybe he would have found the keys if he had looked in the dark.
We find God in the dark places. This is Merton’s great contribution to modern contemplative spirituality. We find God in the darkness, the emptiness, in the poverty of pain and suffering. This is where Jesus found God.
Contemplative union with God is a gift. The theologians call it an infused gift. We cannot earn it. We cannot make it happen. It is pure gift. God makes God known to us within the very depths of our being. In the depths of our poverty and weakness, God pours our infinite love and mercy. This probably will not bring us into the brilliant light of Christ on a long term basis. We catch a glimmer of the Risen Christ here and then but we live in the darkness of brokenness and sin.
The beauty of this is that this is precisely where God is. God is present to us in darkness and brokenness. In the darkness of night, we can awake from slumber and realize that we are enfolded in the love of God. No matter how black the darkness or how bleak the promise, God is present to us. Understanding this may be the gift.
This brings us back to Eucharist. We are one with everything, the light and the darkness. Assembled in worship around the table, Jesus lifts up our brokenness and makes us one with all the broken people everywhere. Jesus heals us so that we can walk forth into the darkness that surrounds us and bring a glimmer of light and hope to our brothers and sisters. We eat the body of Christ to become the body of Christ to one another. We are empowered to alleviate human misery and suffering. In fact, as we go forth, we must make every effort to shed light on darkness. Jesus sends us forth to confront and remove injustice which surrounds us in darkness.