Children of light

Andy Hawes is Warden of
Edenham Regional Retreat House

Jesus taught the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount – ‘you are the light of the world’. St Paul takes up this theme writing to the Ephesians –‘you are children of light.’ Lent provides an opportunity to place ourselves in the light of Christ and ask a rhetorical question: ‘Do I shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father?’ That question takes us straight to the heart of the Christian life. We are given faith not for ourselves but for the sake of God’s beloved creation. Introspection in Lent is good; introspection without some improvement in our life of Christian service is bad.

Lent is an opportunity to renew ourselves in service to Christ both inside and outside the life of the Church. The pursuit of holiness is also the pursuit of more effective witness and service in the world. Each of us is called to be a ‘bearer of light’ in a world of darkness. Let us use Lent as an opportunity to renew the clarity of the flame, to feed it with the purest oil and to clean the glass of our lives to magnify the light of Christ.

There is a prayer of Cardinal Newman which prays ‘stay with me, and I shall begin to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. It will be you who shines through me upon others.’ Lent provides us with opportunities for study and reflection to enable us to be enlightened by the Christ-light.

It is a well-tried test of any spiritual discipline to discern if it is a source of light. If a particular passage of Scripture, a psalm or a way of praying renews you in hope and purpose in your witness, it is a sure sign that you have placed yourself in the light. If on the other hand you find confusion and a loss of commitment through a particular book or prayer exercise, then for you it should be avoided.

There are many ‘false lights’ around, even in your local Christian bookshop; remember St Paul warns us ‘the devil can appear as an angel of light.’ Trust your own judgement and ask yourself: ‘Is this enabling me to be a more effective witness to the Lord? Am I a channel and reflector of his light?’ You will know from experience that some instances of fellowship or worship have the effect of energizing you in faith, hope and love. These for you are places of light. Seek them out.

Lent is also a time for looking at the darkness within – our habits and attitudes of mind and heart that obscure and extinguish the light. St Paul teaches the Ephesians that to live in the light is to live without shame. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus [John 3], that ‘men chose darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’ A helpful way to understand the process of self-examination is to see it as opening up our hearts to Christ who is light. Jesus invites us to come to him for healing and forgiveness – there is no need to hide in shame. The light brings freedom and casts out fear. The light has a name: it is Love.