Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Lighting of the Beacons

One of my favorite scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy takes place when the members of the Fellowship conspire to ignite the Beacons of Gondor. When hope seems to have flickered out, Gandalf orders Pippin to climb and light the beacon closet to Minas Tirith. To light one beacon gives a sign to those who spend their days searching the horizon, awaiting a sign that they, too, should ignite their beacon. The beacons' light stretches from mountain to mountain and, with each ignition, summons forces from across the land to aide the Fellowship in their battle against evil.



Today's Psalm from Isaiah concludes
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. 
As I reflect on this reading, at the beginning of this Holy Week, I cannot help but feel moved by the above video clip and, in a way, more desirous of being a light to others.

Perhaps it is easy to succumb to the temptation that we live in a hopeless, cynical age. Countries are torn apart by political scandals, intrigue, and partisan politics. Sports heroes get caught up in doping scandals and acts of violence. Hardly a day goes by without an accusation against some prominent business figure. The authority of the Catholic Church has been squandered by mishandling of sex abuse cases and an inconsistent application of its prophetic stance to stand up for the dignity of every human life.

There is a temptation to despair, to dark resignation, to hopelessness.

Yet, as one can see in the above clip, it takes but a spark to draw the world together again. As the first fire is enkindled, note how Gandalf peers into the distance. Will someone see it? Is anyone watching? In the darkness of these days, is it possible that those who were stationed at the next beacon have bagged it and gone home?

No, the watchers do see the beacon. They have spent days, months, maybe years scanning the horizon for the day when the fire would be lit and a cry for help would be raised. A small spark to set wood on fire soon brings the forces of good together to make a stand against the forces of darkness.

This week, each of us should stop to consider: am I a beacon to others, giving others the courage to set fire to their own beacons, or am I an agent of despair, who fights against hope? Do I fan the flames of hope or do I douse them with my own cynicism?

The turn of the tide against the forces of darkness will not come by military power or a bomb. It will come because women and men of good will have seen in the distance the spark that calls them to respond, to put flame to their beacon, and to call the world into communion. Let us keep our eyes on the Lord this week, let us watch and pray with him, and may the spark of the divine light ignite something deep within each of us so that we, too, may become beacons calling out for the Return of the King.