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Light shines through the darkness.

Jesus told his followers that they were to be the light of the world, not light hid under a bushel, but a bright, shining light so that the world might notice and glorify God who is in heaven. But we often find it difficult to be light. Twilight is more our laid-back style. When was it more difficult to be light than on the darkest of all days, on Golgotha, the place of the skull, when Jesus was nailed to a cross? A superficial consideration of the crucifixion might suggest total darkness; indeed, from the sixth to the ninth hour "darkness was over all the land (Matt. 27:45)." But it is strengthening to note that even at this most desolate place, in that darkest hour, shafts of light were evident.

First, through Simon, a Cyrenian, who happened to be passing through Jerusalem just when Jesus was being led under guard from the Praetorium to Golgotha. Jesus, weakened by the scourging He had received, stumbled under the weight of the cross which the Roman soldiers then compelled Simon to carry. What a fate, to carry the cross upon which God was to redeem humanity!

Did Simon stay and watch the subsequent gory spectacle, or did he make off to the tranquility of home as soon as he unshouldered his burden? We don't know. We know only that as surely as Jesus bore our burden "in His body on the Tree," Simon bore the tree. For that slight lessening of Our Lord's suffering, Simon has earned the gratitude of Christians down the centuries.

I am sure that if I had been in Jerusalem, I would have betrayed Jesus from cowardice, as Peter did. I might even have been among the mob shouting, "Crucify Him, crucify Him." But I know that I would have felt admiration, perhaps even a twinge of envy, had I seen Simon of Cyrene struggling by carrying Jesus' cross.

There was also light in the darkness when a Roman soldier, hearing Jesus cry from the cross "I thirst (John 19:28)," took a sponge and moistened it and touched it to Jesus' lips.

Above the simple altar in Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying Destitute in Calcutta are engraved the words "I thirst." A direct line can be traced from that Roman soldier who moistened Our Lord's lips upon the cross, to the work of Mother Teresa, and countless other missionaries of charity, bringing compassion in the midst of suffering. Mother Teresa always insisted that what she did was done not for a principle, even a noble principle like charity, but for a person, the suffering Christ.

There were other pinpoints of light around the cross; Mary is mentioned, standing by the foot of the cross, with some other women who had been following the Master. Of course they could not do anything; how could they? But sometimes all that any of us bring to a scene of suffering is our presence. We know that their presence mattered to Jesus because even from the cross He spoke to them, exhibiting His concern not for His own welfare but for theirs.

There was one more light in the darkness of Golgotha, this one hanging in similar agony right alongside. We read that two malefactors were crucified with Jesus, and one of them said: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom (Luke 23:42)." Jesus' reply was immediate: "Today you shall be with me in paradise;" these words must have given hope to that dying man, as they have given hope to believers ever since.

Lights in the darkness. Even at Golgotha. In that place of greatest darkness, we are shown what it means to let our light shine before the world so that God is glorified.

Dr. Ian Hunter is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Law at the University of Western Ontario.
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Author:Hunter, Ian
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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