God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
There is an unexpected playfulness in tonight’s gospel. No, there is no reference to Blaqrobe softball or the Nintendo Wii. The playfulness, rather, is between the themes of light and darkness or, if you prefer a fancy word, chiaroscuro. God sent the Son into the world so that all may be saved through him. But as we know from our recent experience of Holy Week, Jesus’ mission of salvation was not met without resistance. The Reign of God he preached was opposed by the Anti-Reign of the powers and principalities of this world; the force of light was confronted with and, it seemed, destroyed by the powers of darkness.
Barely a week out of Easter, does it not seem that the hope and joy of the Risen Christ has begun to fade? Have we not already returned to the daily grind of balancing academics, apostolates, and various social outlets? The light of Christ we saw so clearly on Easter seems now to be absorbed by the shadow of looming papers and projects. And if we turn our eyes beyond the walls of Ciszek, the situation seems all the more dire. Sub-prime mortgage failures, school shootings, and political scandals all point to an apparently inescapable truth: the forces of darkness are winning.
Sometimes I wonder if our world has become so accustomed to the darkness that the promise of a savior is too remote, too distant, and too impossible to hope for.
And then I see shows like Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style on Bravo. For millions of viewers, Tim Gunn is a secular savior. With the aid of his assistant Veronica, Tim enters into the darkest recesses of a woman’s home: her closet. Himself a fashion guru, he forces the woman to make choices either for fashion – better-fitting clothes, a new palate of colors, a different style – or to perdure in her old ways – wearing the same style and cut of jeans, or wearing only baggy sweat clothes.
In short, the light of fashion shines into the darkness of schlumpery and forces a choice: be fashionable or remain woefully dressed.
Tim’s goal in the show is to free each woman to find her own personal style. He helps her to break out of a destructive pattern of dressing and guides her to claim her own signature look, her own way of approaching fashion, with self-confidence and joy.
If millions of viewers glom onto the messiah of fashion, then it makes all the more urgent our own vocations to preach the Word of God in a world that sorely needs to hear its promise of healing and hope. We are to be ministers and stewards of the light, courageously entering ever-new venues so that the works of God can be clearly seen. Our commitment to the light, in turn, will ignite the hearts of others, inciting them to join with us as we work to help souls.
This is not to say that the forces of darkness will succumb easily. We will face challenges, setbacks, and enormous struggles. The cost, for many, will be enormous. But nourished on the Word and the Body of Christ, we will find strength and sustenance for our journey.
Tim Gunn’s signature line, as he guides contestants through various difficulties, is “Make it work.” And then he walks away. Jesus, the true savior, offers us a very different line: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” With that as a pledge, let us take joy and hope in our vocations as Livers of the Light; let these words embolden us all to have the courage to “Make it work” for the Kingdom of God.