Godtalk: Light and Shadows


A painting of sunrise over dark water

God’s grace-full presence is everywhere, but our response is often muted.

‘When grace enters a room we should begin to dance but, sadly, more often than not we let some little thing, some insect bite blind us to grace's presence.’  W H Auden

Given the complexity in our everyday lives, shadows of some type are invariably present. There can be some irritation in any situation in life, some element challenging pure grace within almost every moment of life. Life rarely comes to us pure, free from all shadow. Spiritual writers speak of living in this ‘vale of tears.’ In our lives we seldom experience a moment of pure joy.  Everything usually comes with a shadow.

So it is not always easy to dance, even in the clear presence of grace. A shadow can easily cause us to lose perspective, to lose the big picture, the one that would have us see and celebrate grace, even in the face of some minor irritation.

The challenge is to try to live more fully in the present moment and not let our heartaches about the past or our anxieties about tomorrow cheat us out of the riches of today.

That of course, is easier said than done. Elements from our past - half-remembered events from childhood, a past love, a misstep that still haunts us - so many things from our past can impress themselves into our present.

We can pray for help to empty ourself  of the past while continuing to value the experience gained. 

The future, as well, colours our present as we worry about an impending decision, the meeting we must have tomorrow, what the doctor is going to tell us at our next visit, and how we will meet our next mortgage payment.

The present moment seldom comes to us unmixed.  We can keep more balance here by trusting that whatever challenge lies ahead can be an occasion for ‘seeing God more clearly, loving him more dearly, and following him more nearly.’

We must not let the shadows within life blind us to the larger presence of grace. A positive response is important.

We may think that an ordinary day is just another day in our life. It's not just another day.  Each day is unique, given to us as a gift; and the appropriate response is gratefulness. If we do nothing else but cultivate that response to this unique day, if we respond as if it were the first day of our life and the very last day, then we will have spent the day well.

Yet that is a grace that does not come easily; it must be prayed for. Shadows can appear at any point in our lives: the challenge is to hold on to the larger presence of grace.

And it helps if we keep our sense of humour in good repair.

Peter Knott SJ