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November Article for The RI Catholic

Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND

Light and darkness are elusive in early November. It’s not that far from those long summer days when an extravagant sun covered most of our waking hours. Light was everywhere. Our bodies and spirits resist having to adjust to the ever-shortening days leading us to the winter solstice. Although the temperature is often mild at this time of year, we find ourselves going to work in just breaking light and returning in dusk.

A brilliant sun can glitter off the golden and red trees as beautifully as it did off the crashing waves during beach days in August. A tree can look dark and dull until the light hits and then it becomes a mirror of spun gold. With a cloud or a shadow, the colors disappear into dark dead leaves ready to be blown off by the next wind. November teases us with light.

Our lives can reflect a similar experience of light and darkness. Every society has light and darkness to it. There are no totally utopian cities, nor are there nations, even the most oppressive, devoid of people of goodness. The Church is a society which has had light and dark since the time of Christ. Christ chose twelve special friends to be his first apostles. One betrayed him, one denied him and most of the others abandoned him in his time of greatest need. They quarreled among themselves and jockeyed for first place in his kingdom. In the two thousand years since then, the struggle has continued.

The history of the Church is as much about sin as about goodness. There is not a saint, canonized or not, who is not also a sinner. We have saints who were adulterers, murderers, thieves. St. Paul persecuted the Church he would later die for. Dorothy Day, whose cause is up for canonization, had an abortion in her youth. Yet it was the birth of her daughter years later which led to her own conversion to Catholicism. Light can pierce the darkness anywhere. Prison conversions are not uncommon or false for many.

We have within us the play of light and darkness. St. Paul said it best: “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:17-19)

No one is perfect. Like these autumn days, we share light and darkness. Unlike political advertising which shows one candidate as all good and the opponent as all bad, one competent and one incompetent, each of us is a mix. Honesty about ourselves is a necessary part of our days of light and darkness. We cannot make ourselves into perfect people, but we can trust God in his mercy for our sins and thank God for the moments of grace and goodness whenever they come. What we cannot do is give up on ourselves or on anyone else. God is greater than the most egregious sin and infinite in mercy, freely giving it to all who need it. God is the source of all goodness and desires to share it with us.

The end of November calls us to stop and offer thanks. Before the turkey with stuffing and the football game with an overtime, there is the moment to bow our heads, close our hands and offer thanks to God for the light of our days and the dark of our nights. All is gift. All is grace. Thanks be to God.


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