This homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent is based on John 3:14-21.
As I was praying over today’s Gospel, one line leapt out of the page. It’s a line I’m familiar with, having come across it so many times before, but for some reason, as it often happens when we read our scripture, our context, the situation we find ourselves in, shapes what we understand and see in the texts we read.
The line is: “the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.”
At first glance, this preference for the dark may surprise us. Why would anyone not choose light over the dark? But it’s an ancient insight into human nature. Plato, centuries before Christ, shared his insights about knowledge and education through his so-called allegory of the cave, where he compares ordinary people to prisoners shackled inside a cave and condemned to watch a shadow play, mistaking the shadows for the actual objects that cast them. He is pointing out that true knowledge lies not in appearances because these are but shadows of what is real.
But here’s where it gets interesting: In the allegory, one prisoner manages to escape and walk out of the cave, and for the first time, he sees actual objects, and his eyes are literally opened. He walks back into the cave to tell the prisoners about this real world beyond the shadows of the cave, but instead of welcoming the news, the prisoners reject it and even regard him with hostility.
Some like it dark. And one reason is we’ve simply grown accustomed to it. Another related reason is the discomfort that the change will cause. If we walk into the light, our eyes will hurt, as they did initially for our ex-prisoner in Plato’s story.
So when the Lord comes to our life offering us light, we may not all jump up and grab the opportunity to turn away from the darkness. The reason is that the choices we have to make between light and shadows, between good and evil, often entails a related choice between pleasure and pain. The fact is, doing good may be painful; this is what the Lord often refers to as the cross we need to bear if we wish to follow him. Likewise, avoiding evil cause some pain because some evil deeds do, in fact, bring us pleasure—and this is why temptations can be powerful and we occasionally find ourselves quite helpless to them.
In other words, we need to keep it real. Before we can be moral, we have to be ready to manage our instinctive—and thus default—reliance on the pleasure and pain principle.
Finally, choosing the light and deciding to step out of the shadows will often mean honestly and humbly coming to terms with our past mistakes and sins. That is by no means an easy thing. This is why the Lord says: “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
As we continue to enter into this holy season of Lent, let’s ask ourselves: Are you still dwelling in caves?
In which aspects of your life could you still be inhabiting caves, areas in your life where you still prefer to hide and huddle in the dark because it is easier, more familiar, less threatening, more pleasurable?
Is it time to walk out of caves?
4 replies on “DWELLING IN CAVES”
Thank you for meeting me in my cave.
Be patient with me, Lord as I try my best to follow You
Where the light of Your grace shines brightly.
Fill my mind with the wisdom
That the pain of letting go of what I am used to
Leads to a place where I could ease the pain of others.
Place in my heart the courage to face all the hurdles
That will come as I leave my comfort zone.
And Lord, may you always remind me
That You are with me at every turn, in every event,
And in every moment of my life.
I have dwelt in caves for a period of time but decided to walk out it because I realized that it is only the truth that can set me free. No one ever said that it will be easy but I know that as long as God is with me and I don’t let go of Him, we can pull this through together. It’s not smooth sailing all the time but I know I’m on the right path. Life is indeed a struggle but it’s worth it.
Thank you, Lord for the gift of life & for leading me towards the light. May those who are still in darkness see the light in their lives and slowly come out of their caves. Amen.
I pray for the grace of humility and courage….to enable me to walk out of the cave…and into the light.
This is what came to mind when I reflected on the caves in my life–Thanatopsis.
That when thy summons comes
To join the innumerable caravan that leads to that mysterious realm…
Thou go not like a quarry-slave at night scourged to his dungeon…”