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Bring your own light

Kate Barrett | Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Have you noticed that the days are growing longer? Not, as we might wish, in total hours per day; that’s still stuck at 24. However, we are at least getting a little more bang for our buck in the daylight department. This morning, the sun rose at a relatively early 7:41 a.m. and won’t set tonight until 6:47 p.m. That’s a total of 10 hours and 36 minutes of daylight if you’re keeping track. Back at the beginning of February we only got 10 hours and four minutes.
It seems fitting, then, that we have also begun the season of Lent, a word that shares its roots in the word for “spring.” Lent was originally associated with the change of seasons from winter to spring, and particularly with the lengthening amount of sunlight in each day. Images of light and darkness are plentiful during Lent, with darkness getting one last try on Good Friday as Jesus hung dying on the cross. As you’ll hear in Luke’s Gospel on Palm Sunday, “It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun” (Lk. 23:44-45).
But we know how that story ends. In the darkness of Good Friday, God’s beloved son, sent to save the world and to lead us all back to the Father, turns out to be a different kind of savior than anyone would have ever expected. He experiences an absolutely humiliating and painful death. But as the disciples did not yet know, Jesus rose from the dead to become the light no darkness can overcome. Each and every baptized Christian, then, as a member of Christ’s body, shares in that light. During the season of Lent we prepare – again and again, because it’s the work of a lifetime – to renew our baptismal promises at Easter and to live out those promises in our lives.
Events in the Church this past week remind us how very uniquely we each share in the light of Christ. While Pope John Paul II’s example of perseverance through suffering shone a light on how to live a holy and blessed death, Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement on Monday that he will resign the papacy illuminates a path toward humble acceptance of our own limitations and the importance of discerning our true role in the body of Christ. In their own ways, each of these last two popes revealed the very particular way he followed Christ’s light. One imitated Jesus’ willingness to suffer publicly for the sake of others and one recognized that his role, like Jesus’, required that he lead by relinquishing all claims to leadership.
The promises our parents made for us at our baptism – and which we ourselves renew each Easter – call us to become who God truly means us to be, not just to follow the crowd to the latest attraction or distraction. Jesus gives us the power to be light in darkness, a power no one can take away from us. 
The powerful pull of planets and stars, the light that grows and diminishes as Earth moves around the Sun, reminds us that God’s presence in our lives is as big as the universe, even while the gift of his beloved son Jesus reminds us that he loves us individually and intimately. On Easter day we will enjoy a full 12 hours and 40 minutes of daylight. During this Lent as the light begins to push back the night each morning and evening, try contributing your own light to the effort. Become the light of Christ wherever you find darkness in the world around you.
Kate Barrett is the assistant director of undergraduate ministry in the Office of Campus Ministry. She can be reached at kbarrett@nd.edu
    The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.