I was reading recently about light and shade. Light is always seen as positive and good, shade or shadows are metaphorically given a negative meaning – thought of as darkness, cold, fear and suffering. We speak, for example, of living in someone’s shadow, of life being overshadowed by some tragedy or disaster, or of facing the shadow of death. But the reality is that shade and shadows are caused not by absence of light but by its very presence. The two go hand in hand.
And our lives too are a mixture of light and darkness. You cannot have one without the other. So it is quite reasonable at a time of darkness to pray for more light – to ask for a miracle to occur. Many times indeed over the years, I have stood visiting parishioners in hospital wards and prayed that their pain and suffering would be removed – that light would come and they would be set free. Many times too, I have reasoned and pleaded with people to see from another perspective, to step out of the shade, at a time when they are entrenched in a cycle of gloom and despair.
Occasionally, in observing human situations, things do improve and we give thanks for that, but equally often, no miracle seems forthcoming and people are left to carry their often intolerable burdens – just as the woman in Luke 13 had done for 18 years. How we wish to hear those words of Christ; ‘you are set free from your ailment’ (Luke 13:12).
We heard in Isaiah, the words ‘You shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help and He will say ‘Here I am’ (Isaiah 58:9). And it is those words ‘Here I am’ that are the supreme consolation to those suffering in our world. It is his light that shines in the darkness of despair and suffering. It cannot always be that we are ‘set free from our ailment’, but it is always true that Christ, the light of the world, walks alongside us: ‘Here I am.’
There in the hospital ward, the hospice, the consultation room.
There in the divorce court, the empty house, the disappointed dream.
There in the confusion of not knowing which way to turn next.
Isaiah says – ‘The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your needs in parched places.’ And he went on, using the water analogy – ‘You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.’ In other words, Christ walks with us; He fuels our resources and never leaves us – even in the blackest holes of our oppression and depression – ‘Here I am.’