A few years ago I wrote about a little boy named Calvin and the way I was trying to find the light as the world seemed to be falling apart. It was 2016, and any faint semblance of morality in our culture seemed to be collapsing by the minute and it felt like darkness was really closing in. I was certain that our society had to be at least somewhere close to as low as we could go, and hopeful that Jesus would be returning soon to save us all from rock bottom.
I see now that 2016 wasn’t even close to as bad as it could get.
Maybe you are looking at the world, or looking at the Church, or looking at everything, and feeling the same sense of dumbfoundedness that I am. Maybe you’re “sitting with your mouth full of teeth” - a Dutch colloquialism for being utterly and completely speechless. I am speechless on most days, to be honest, with what is happening all around me. I watched a video of an amphitheater full of people in the United States of America, a country founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - who rejoiced and cheered loudly as if at a World Cup soccer game about expanding our ability to kill our very own children. I watch as many of the people who are supposed to be leading our country cast their vote that they don’t think a little baby struggling for its life in a failed abortion should be given proper medical attention and care. I watch a video, sitting with my mouth full of teeth, as a doctor named Ralph says out loud, “They will keep the baby comfortable,” and then decide if they’ll leave it there to die. I continue to hear about the sickening state of the Church and watch as our leaders gather for summits on abuse that come to nothing except words, thoughts, and more statements...once again. It is very painful to witness. I sit quietly in my pew as a representative from our diocese comes to tell us, in the beginning of Mass, that our pastor is a fraud living two lives, lying to all of us for an undetermined amount of years, thousands of people he was supposed to be leading with love. I feel utterly breathless as tears fall on my son’s head as I go forth to receive the Eucharist and tell my son out loud that it is everything, everything, everything.
Life can be a very heartbreaking thing. And the darkness of our broken world seems to break my heart in a new way every day. But in the midst of the darkness that continues to grow, I am learning from my son.
If you have ever tried to put a baby to sleep, they fight it, on some days more desperately than others. When nap time or night time comes, my son wiggles and writhes around and yelps when he realizes that sleep is overtaking him, trying to stay awake. His eyelids fall and then lift, fall and then lift again. He kicks his feet to wake himself back up, over and over. And do you know the main thing that helps him to fight the darkness of his eyelids as they overcome him?
He looks for light.
Whether it’s a sliver of light coming from underneath the door, or a ray of morning sunshine peeking through the white shutters in his nursery, he will find it. He will find it every time and he will focus everything he’s got on it to help him keep going. And I watch him intently fix his gaze on that light...and I am once again taught everything I need to know about where my focus should be and needs to be in these challenging, dark days in our world...it needs to be on what is light, and bright, and beautiful.
Hope demands that I focus on the light. Faith invites me to remember the Resurrection. Love challenges my heart to keep leaning into grace - leaning into the good and the true and the beautiful in the overwhelming darkness. And so I choose to fix my gaze on the light. I choose to pay close attention to the couple who wheels their disabled adult daughter down the aisle to receive the Eucharist every day, and watch as they remind me why we stay. I watch a warrior woman named Abby Johnson live a kind of boldness and bravery that is shaking up the world. I choose to focus on the good, honest, caring priests I know who are striving for holiness with every fiber of their being, giving all that they have to lead their flocks in boldness, authenticity, and love. I watch the great California butterfly migration of 2019 as thousands of butterflies float, dance, and soar past our balcony with a lightness we all need. And I behold the face of my son as I rock him to sleep dozens of times every week, and he teaches me again and again...
Keep your gaze fixed on the light, mom.
Keep your gaze fixed on the light.