Dear Brothers and Sisters,
If the light goes out in our lives, Jesus can turn it on again.
Tourists were visiting the famous Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. While they were below ground in the giant cave, the lights went out. Among those trapped in the darkness were two children: an eight-year-old boy and his five-year-old sister. The situation was scary, especially for children. Suddenly the little girl began to cry. Then her eight-year-old brother was heard to say, “Don’t worry, Amy. There’s a man up there who knows how to turn the lights on again.” We heard in the Gospel Jesus beginning his public ministry. It was a fulfillment of the prophesy of the prophet Isaiah, “The people who live in darkness will see a great light. On those who live in the dark land of death, the light will shine.”
The prophet promised the people that great light would soon appear to take away the darkness and Jesus is that great light. There are times in our lives when the lights go out, leaving us standing in darkness like a frightened five-year-old. At times like this we need to know that there is someone up there who knows how to turn the lights on again. As we are approaching the super bowl I would like to tell you a story of a football player, Darryl Stingley. In the late 1970’s he was sitting on top of the pro football world as a wide receiver for the New England Patriots. Then one August afternoon, in a preseason game, he was viciously hit by safety Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders. Tatum’s bone-crushing smash left the 27-year-old athlete paralyzed from the chest down. Today he can use only one hand and gets around in an electric wheelchair. The light went out for Darryl Stingley that August afternoon. But Darryl never gave up. He knew there was someone up there who could turn the lights back on again. He believed the prophecy of Isaiah: “The people who live in darkness will see a great light. On those who live in the dark land of death the light will shine.” And when the light went on again for Darryl, it went on brighter than ever. Darryl is still confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk, but he has a whole new vision of himself and life. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Darryl insisted that in some ways his life is better now than it was before. “I had tunnel vision,” he said of his playing days with the Partiots. “All I wanted was to be the best athlete I could, and a lot of things were overlooked. Now I’ve come back to them.” Stingley was more explicit with a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He said that his tragedy had changed his life for the better in a surprising new way: “This is a rebirth for me. Not only physically but spiritually…I really have a lot more meaning and purpose to live for now than ever before.” Those are incredible worlds from a young man whose dreams of football stardom lie dead and buried in an electric wheelchair. But you hear the same kind of worlds from hundreds of other people who have gone through similar periods of darkness in their lives. When the lights went on again for them, they went on brighter than ever. And the same can be true for us. The death of a life-long spouse, an unexpected rejection by a loved one, a smashed dream of business success, the loss of good health – all of these things can throw our lives into temporary darkness. But when a tragedy like this strikes us, we need only remember Isaiah’s prophecy: “The people who live in darkness will see a great light. On those who live in the dark land of death the light will shine.” We need only remember the little boy in the cave, who told his frightened sister, “Don’t worry, Amy. There’s a man up there who knows how to turn the lights on again.” And when the lights go on again for us – as they surely will – we will find that they will go on brighter than ever.
Let’s close with the verse of a popular hymn written by Cardinal Newman. It describes his search for the right way to follow Jesus. He wrote it as a young man, returning by sea from Italy to his native England. While the boat was detained at Sicily, young Newman fell ill and nearly died. During his convalescence he wrote the following lines:
“Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home, lead thou me on; keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene, – one step enough for me.” In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God Bless You,