December 31, 2023 Essay: Our Light Overpowers the Darkness

Dec 19, 2023

As we come to the close of this year, darkness seems to shroud us—the ongoing war in Gaza will leave a humanitarian catastrophe which there is currently no plan to address, critical domestic and international issues are being ignored in Congress while our representatives and senators engage in performative politics, and the campaign for the 2024 presidential election foreshadows a potentially frightening future for our country. As a people of faith, what should be our response to the darkness enveloping our nation and the larger world?

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1.5) This is from the prologue of the Gospel of John which is one of the Christmas gospels. This is a foundational truth of our faith. In Jesus, the light of God shone in our world and the forces of darkness—hate, evil, ignorance, and power—sought to extinguish that light by killing Jesus. Yet, by his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus triumphed over this world. The light of God triumphed over the darkness of this world and that light will never be extinguished. The forces of evil have been defeated. Love has conquered hate. The heart of our Christian faith is the proclamation of the triumph of love, light, and goodness over the forces of hate, darkness, and evil. This is what should enable us to persevere in living our faith even when, as now, darkness seems to be enveloping us, evil seems to be more powerful than the good, and hate seems to be suffocating love. Every day, we have to remind ourselves of the truth of what we believe. Light, love, and goodness are now victorious and will prevail.

The challenge we face as Christians is whether we will succumb to the forces of this world, or, instead, stand fast for the values of Jesus Christ. Will you make it clear to others that hate has no home in your heart by registering your disapproval of racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, or homophobic words or actions? Will you make it clear that your heart is open to all in the respect and courtesy you extend to all persons regardless of their race, their creed, their class, their sexual orientation, their immigration status, or their housing status? Will you have the courage to advocate for what is necessary for all persons to live in the dignity with which God gifted each and every one of the children of God—life, health care, education, opportunities for employment, affordable and safe housing, opportunities for leisure, and an income sufficient to provide a life commensurate with human dignity when employment ends due to age or disability? Will you strive to offer mercy and forgiveness to those who hurt you in any way? Every day, in the concrete choices we make, we testify as to whether we have succumbed to the forces of this world, or are working to transform this world. We transform this world by our words of kindness, hope, encouragement, forgiveness, and by our deeds of love, compassion, mercy, and goodness. Each day we have to light the candle of our faith and let the light of our lives dispel the darkness that surrounds us.

As the New Year dawns, we acknowledge that there is much darkness in the world and that evil and hate seem to grow more powerful by the day. We, however, do not cower in fear, or surrender to despair. Instead, we turn to the One who is our light, Jesus Christ, and recommit ourselves to following the way he set before us—the way that has proven victorious over darkness, evil, and hate. We remember the counsel of Jesus in the gospel of John: “While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light” (12.36).

— Rev. Mark C. Hallinan, S.J., Associate Pastor