Living life in this 21st Century is difficult, dubious and conflicting. How do we discern truth? What path should we choose, and which avenues should we trod? In his work, “The Republic,” the ancient philosopher Plato presents an allegorical image, which he references as the cave. He describes a group of individuals fettered to the wall of a cave, facing a blank wall. Objects pass before the flames of a fire, creating shadows, fragments of reality, exaggerated distortions of human life.
How easily we can be trapped, tangled in a web of deception, imprisoned in an illusion. Why are we so hopelessly divided over the ultimate questions of life, love, country and faith? Do we live in a culture of death or life? Are we truly free or a cog in a machine? Are we so irreparably compromised regarding our own biology, that the distinction between male and female is so incontrovertibly blurred? Are we so gravely weakened on the world stage that nuclear war could very well be in our not-so-distant future? Are we secure in our faith or rattled by confusing and unsettling Church dialogue? Do we cringe in a dark cave, confused by the absurdities of life?
We have ears to hear; so, let us carefully, empathically listen to God’s transformative word, beckoning us forth out of the shadows, to live life in the light of day. Guided by faith alone, we are illuminated by the immensity of God’s life and light within us. Let us not cringe in the darkness, like those who are consumed by violence, indifference, hatred and faithlessness. Rather, let us embrace the Divine Light, as we journey forward with eyes wide open and hearts filled with the love of God and neighbor.
We can either live in fear and trembling, trapped in a cave of shadows, or we can venture forth far beyond the cave, into the light of a new day, where truth triumphs over falsehood, goodness over evil, clarity over confusion, mutual respect over politics, peace over war, life over death, unity over discord!
Let us take our rightful place among the children of God; together, as one family, we grow and mature in the person of Christ, crucified and raised! Only he can free us from the confinement of our own making. As the psalmist forebodingly cautions: “Do not put your trust in princes.” How foolish are we, if we do!
The Lord delivers us from ourselves, from our obstinate, sinful ways. Only by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ are we truly free, redeemed and fully alive within the divine embrace of his mercy. Life is never so bleak, so dark, so difficult that we, by God’s grace, cannot find our way out of the cave of shadows to embrace a new and glorious dawn.
With faith, all is possible. By faith, everything works out for good. In faith, we live, move and have our being. As darkness is consumed by the light, faith forever prevails, and life unfolds according to God’s good purpose.
Father Thomas Merton, who was a Trappist monk, a celebrated scholar, a prolific writer, blessed with a deep spirituality and a profound and consuming faith, wrote this prayer:
“My Lord, God
I have no idea where I am going.
I cannot see the road ahead of me.
And I do not know for certain where it will end.
Therefore, I will trust you, always.
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death
I will not fear, for you are ever with me and will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
As the disciples of this generation, we live life with hope and joy. The challenges we encounter, both good and bad, are brief, transitory, a blink of an eye.
Let us pray constantly, by God’s grace, that we may be so much more than we ever dreamt: the Lord’s humble disciples, faithful and true, loving servants, enlightened by the grace of Christ, bearers of his holy word and sacrament!
Rev. Douglas J. Spina, Ph.D., is pastor emeritus of St. Mary Church, West Warwick.