Monday, December 29, 2014

Watching in the dark night for the brightness of dawn

In an article which I recently came across, I found out that Karl Rahner, the noted German theologian, once preached a series of Lenten reflections which gave him the platform to speak about the state of helplessness and loneliness.  He told his audience a couple of surprising, yet insightful things.  One of the things that he said was that we must not be surprised by our feelings of loneliness and those of being shackled in moments of our more poignant lives.

What he meant is that there will, as part of our varied landscapes of our lives will show, be moments, even prolonged moments, when we seem to be somewhat forced into periods of loneliness and some form of constriction.  I have known many couples in marriages where there are great periods of loneliness, even when two people are sharing the same bed.  Physical proximity is sometimes not the antidote to loneliness, as can be attested to by those who are strangers in the bond of marriage.  Certainly, other afflictions can bring about the experience of loneliness and being in some sort of bind or constraint as well.  Illnesses do this to us, and so do experiences of our own human limitations.  When Rahner told his audience that one must not be shocked by these moments, moments of powerlessness and hopelessness, he was saying that it is in confronting these moments that we actually begin to develop our own sensitivity and begin that often painful but necessary process of stretching our hearts that lead to our emotional health.

The one temptation that faces us at these times is to make a beeline for the door, to escape and run away from what we think will make life difficult and challenging.  What Rahner says next is ‘don’t’.  Fight this temptation to flee.  Instead, stay inside of this seeming emptiness and darkness.  There is much to learn from this, counter-intuitive though it may be.

Many of us will turn to our familiar distractions to find some sort of escape from what pains us.  Some will turn to being lost in some sort of busyness, moving from relationship to relationship, turning to drink, endless amusements and worldly distractions.  What these escapes an do is to convince us that there is no God around for us, and that we have to save ourselves. 

Staying inside of the pain and stilling ourselves within this turmoil is a courageous thing to do because it provides our inner selves the opportunity to get to that turning point and to see that God is doing something within this chaos.  I know now that this was the subconscious working within me when I was told by my doctors that I had a rare blood cancer almost two year ago.  I knew that I didn’t want to go into any sort of denial, to escape from this news, or to enter into a ‘pity-mode’.  Instead, embraced it because I knew that I would encounter God within this challenge and the constraints that I was being presented with.   I do, however, hesitate much in using myself as an example, simply because it has the rather distasteful tone of being a literary selfie snapshot.  I do apologise if this is not only inappropriate but perhaps even rather distasteful to my readers.

When we meet these moments of constraint, several things begin to happen, but only if we allow them.  One of these is that our thoughts about God begin to become purified.  We will see that our notions of God are often not those of the real God, but the God of our imaginings.  A lot of us have very narrow notions of God that he must not allow these things to happen in our lives.  But it is in the darkness of our lives that we purify these stilted notions, where we sit and wait patiently for some light to shine in the darkness.  It is only when we are surrounded by a deep night that the light of hope can come. 

The Christmas story that is told in gospels where the infancy narratives of Christ are written about mention shepherds watching in the night.  What were they watching for?  The first thing that comes to mind would be potential marauders and predators that would harm their sheep.  But another thing that any night watchman would wait for is the light.  The light of dawn signals the arrival of safety and the opportunity for rest.  It is in this dark night on the first Christmas night that a light did appear – that of the heavenly messengers in the form of an army of angels. 

It is common knowledge that the deeper and purer the night darkness, the brighter the stars appear.  That is because the skies are not brightened by the city lights that can make the viewing of stars not only challenging but almost impossible.  It’s not that the stars are not there.  Isn’t this the same thing that can be said of God?

When our lives are too filled with anxieties and worries, made worse possibly by the distractions that we choose to deal with them, we surround our lives by much more brightness than we should.  But Rahner’s recommendation makes sense here.  Spiritual sense.  Perhaps we need to have the courage to sit patiently in the darkness that our lives seem to be in, much like those shepherds at Bethlehem, and await there in the deep darkness so that the light of God’s hope can be seen with greater clarity.  Having the stance of the shepherds on that holy night allows us to be ready to receive the message and comforting presence of God.

Nota bene
I will be taking time to be away for about two weeks where I will be incommunicado.  As such, there will be a hiatus of my weekly blog entry till 19 Jan 2015.  With God's grace, I will be sufficiently recharged and energized thereafter to write and reflect with a new freshness.  I wish all my readers a very happy and holy new year, where we welcome all the ways through which God makes inroads into our lives, transforming us to be greater images of him.


  1. Dearest Fr. Luke,

    I had spent much time this year journeying with a colleague who just ended her 20 years relationship with her husband, together since their schooldays. This year had been very hard on her, as I seen her in her emotional spiral down, as she had to juggle with 2 young children with special needs, to focus on her job as well as to resolve financial issues while dealing with the draining and ugly proceedings of a divorce.

    I recalled her telling me, the most unbearable for her is the loneliness she feels when she is alone in the dark hours of night, and for a few months, resorted to getting drunk every night to numb it out.

    She is non-Christian and I did try bringing her to mass, where she had sometimes burst in tears… but recently decided to stop going with me.

    I reckon she is too hurt to want to believe in a loving God… (yet). It is always easier to rationalize why bad things happen.

    Surprising however, she got me a very special Christmas present this year, a framed quotation from famous pastor Martin Luther King Jr. That goes " Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase." ...;} She told me it resonated with her.

    I am heartened that some rays are slowly piercing through… and will continue to pray for her healing and all who are in the darkness of night. For patience in waiting out for God’s divine plan to be fulfilled & the peace brought by faith in trusting God.

    A song that speaks to the heart… a very uplifting song… dedicated to all

    PS: Thank You Fr. Luke, for sharing your heartfelt song in your last post, it is now in my looped playlist. ;}

    Wishing you Hope, Peace, Joy and Hope - Jesus, this Christmas and every day.
    Blessed & Happy New Year…

    United in Prayers,
    Take care of yourself.

  2. Dear Fr. Luke,

    No one escapes this journey of learning from the School of Life. There will be times in our life where our most intimate and fragile moments are being activated by the slow transits of our powerful emotions welling up to a state where shock and unpredictability can amplify the themes of subconscious and shadow sides of our restriction and limits that eventually result in pain and loneliness. The hidden patterns, the collective unconscious, the seclusion, isolation and transcendence of divorce, illness and death of someone dear at heart - all that whole lot of stuff going on all at once, can really hit us, hard.

    The first thing to acknowledge, is that these are the areas where we really have to dig, to reflect upon – to accept the pain that accompanied loneliness. This phase, like every other, is definitely going to be uncomfortable yet, the right thing to do in order to move forward, is what we are excavating our subconscious, probing into our mind, until we reach the deep-rooted patterns, the past conditionings that have been haunting us for years, in order to finally break free and live our own life again.

    Have faith, for the compassionate Lord sees and hears each and everyone of us. He says, “One day, I will wipe away every tear from your eyes” (Revealations 21:3-4). As much faith as we're willing to place in ourselves.

    Something more than our ordinary routine life, our life purpose on a larger vision must change, our inner self that we connect with must come to a point that is meaningful, purposeful and engages our soul. Our inner wellbeing is our true security, and being resilience does create meaningful connections, not just our social realm but all aspects of our life.

    It is going to be a deep and demanding process, but one thing that is obvious to us is that nothing is permanent. Life revolves in cycles. Being able to embrace pain and loneliness, and strike a balance between our weakness and strength does give rise to mental clarity and self-esteem.

    It is a journey of self-discovery. The scripture in 1 Peter 1:6 states, “Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer.” One will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Thank you for the awesome reflection.

    May God Bless You


  3. “But it is in the darkness of our lives that we purify these stilted notions, where we sit and wait patiently for some light to shine in the darkness. It is only when we are surrounded by a deep night that the light of hope can come...............”

    Two days ago, the mass reading speaks beautifully of what this “light of hope” can do and is doing...............for it is “a light that shines in the dark, a light - that darkness could not overpower............that enlightens all men.............” ( Jn1: 1-18) We have been told that darkness can only exist where there is the absence of light, and it is in the deep darkness of night that we behold the brilliance of the stars. And so it is that in the darkness of our lives that we are able to perceive that we have indeed “received- yes, grace in return for grace.....” for the “light of hope” (as you have aptly named it) has come to save us - when the Word, the true light came into the world to live among us.

    As we celebrated the Solemnity of Theotokos or Mary, Mother of God we are reminded of how our Blessed Mother stayed pondering in the state of unknowing what exactly is the Divine will expected of her after the angel’s visit. Yet, stayed she did in that ‘holy darkness.’ We are also reminded in the reading that we are especially called,........... the anointed stay, to hold fast to His teachings – not through our own merits but because He chose us..........and so, we too should stay even in our moments of darkness and unknowing for like Our Lady, we only need to be faithful to His call. And in so doing, we know that He will always be with us, blessing us, whether in sunshine or in shadow.
    That, I feel is all that we need to know.

    God bless you, Fr.


  4. Happy New Year Father Luke! Wishing you all the joy that this new year can bring!

  5. Dear Fr. Luke,

    In times of - helplessness, emptiness, darkness and loneliness.
    In Faith - waiting patiently for the voice of God.
    In Jesus Christ - The Prince Of Peace.

    - "Having the stance of the shepherds on that Holy Night allows us to be ready to receive the message and comforting presence of God."

    {REV 22:16} - I, JESUS, have sent my angel to make these revelations to you for the sake of the churches. I AM of David's line, the root of David and The BRIGHT STAR of the morning.

    {HEBREW 12:14} - Try to be at peace with everyone, and try to live a holy life, because no one will see the Lord without it.

    {ECC 15:14-17} - HE HIMSELF MADE MAN, in the beginning, and then left him free to make his own decisions. Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.

    {SIRACH 10:21} - Success begins with Fear of the Lord, but Failure begins with stubbornness and arrogance.

    {SIRACH 3:28} - There is no cure for the troubles that arrogant people have; wickedness has taken deep root in them.

    {PSALMS 24:12} - If anyone fears the Lord he will show him the path he should choose.

    {ISAIAH 48: 17-18} - THUS SAYS THE LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel : I, The Lord , your God, teach you what is good for you, I lead you in the way that you must go. If only you had been alert to my commandments.

    {MICAH 5:4} - He himself will be PEACE.

    All Glory- Honour & Praise
    To our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Take care & Be Happy