From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 3rd Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

“Holy Darkness”

Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11     1 Thessalonians 5:16-24     John 1:6-8, 19-28

Our parish theme this Advent is ’Out of our Darkness into His wonderful Light’ Our focus this third Sunday is ‘….’.

Darkness can terrify us, consume us. But the right kind of darkness can give us peace. A night of good sleep, for instance; or a “lovely soft day,” as the Irish call the shady, rainy, drizzling days that make Ireland green.

I had an experience a few years back of holy darkness. This took place in California—strangely, since light abounds there. A friend and I had decided to take a tour of an old gold mine.

Perhaps a dozen of us had made the trip. We were ushered into the mine entrance, following trustingly, and after a few curves there was no morsel of light left, except for an electric bulb, our salvation.

Then the guide, warning us ahead of time, very kindly and all, turned off the light, but the words “put out the light” didn’t sound  comforting to my ears. Nevertheless, off it went. And we simultaneously hushed our movements and our nervous talk. Deep, unrelieved darkness settled itself like dew upon us and upon everything else. Eyes open, eyes closed, it was all the same. No light, no shadow, no slightest glow. Surely we should have felt trapped and afraid, but no one did. Instead, great rest, great peace.

“I’ll put the light back on now,” the guide whispered, but we said,  “No, no, leave it off. Give us more time.” We sat, unseeing, together, consoled by the warmth and deepness of absolute night.

When the tiny little bulb did finally return, our own eyesight surprised us. Seeing was like a memory that had slipped away. The dark had formed a resting place, it seems, where our souls could re-charge, our eyes recover their innocence. Maybe the daylight world had become too ordinary, too usual, too much just a tool to be used. Now it seemed miraculous, a gift given even when it is nothing more than an incandescent bulb.

In Sunday’s Gospel, the people hunger for spiritual daylight. “Are you the light?” they shout to John. Will you “bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release the prisoners”

“I am pointing you toward the light,” the Baptist said. He will be here soon. Hold onto my arm.”

What is your experience of darkness? Maybe yours is the opposite of quiet. Maybe terror is its name. If so, know that, however unrelieved your night may be, there is still, always, the promise of

light. When you have been cut off for a long time, even one speck of light will change everything.

As a tiny child will on Christmas night.

May this holy Advent console us and rest us and make us ready.




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