When the Light Goes Out


23 January 2011 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; Psalm 17; 2 Cor 1: 10-13.17; Matthew 4:12-17

In the summer of 2009, I made my second entry into Sagada, a scenic and pretty town in the Mountain Province of the Philippines. It is characterized by the abundance of flowers, dramatic limestone peaks and a panoramic view of the valley. It stood about 1,500 meters above sea level, thus the climate was fresh and cooled by altitude. It was a place for adventurers and those who just wanted a quiet respite from the bustle of city life. I went there with a bunch of Jesuits who had just finished their annual retreat. While plying the little nooks and crannies of Sagada, we decided to go spelunking in Sumaguing cave. I was claustrophobic, and so I knew what might happen down there.

And it did happen. I was underneath a narrow stalactite passage when all lights went off. I was first in line and suddenly, I couldn’t breath. I panicked! I could not return because there was a long line following me. I just had to move on. But without light, it would be very difficult. Then one of the Jesuits said, “someone from up there will bring the light.” It brought me some hope.

My experience illustrates the meaning of the readings today. From both Isaiah and Matthew, they tell us the meaning of the coming of Jesus in our lives.

“The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light; on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen.”

Indeed, the coming of the Lord is like my experience in the Sumaguing cave. How many of us have scary and terrifying situations when the “light” in our lives just went off? When we have been left in a ‘narrow passage’ and there was no way to go and no light to guide us?

A few months ago, the onset of diabetes had been greatly felt. My bloodsugar would go haywire and I was in a state of ‘darkness.’ When my father died in 1990, a period of darkness fell on my family. When I was working in prison, the verdict was the time when all possibilities of a free life went out for the inmates. I heard many stories of people who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and literally, the ‘lights went out’ for them. To many of my friends, the rejection of a loved one was hurting that they felt like ‘dying.’ For some students, when their grades did not meet the requirement of their scholarships, their world went down the drain.

When tragedy strikes us, we remember Isaiah and Matthew: “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light; on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen.” Sometimes we just have to repeat and repeat this passage in Scriptures to assure us that light is coming. And indeed, He comes.

But we also hear of success stories of those whose light has gone out. Some have even made their lives far better than before: a new perspective on life, a realization of the people who matter, the acquisition of a renewed strength, the audacity to overcome limitations.

Today, we reflect: what’s your success story?

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