One of the great things about this time of year is that there is more light. After the time change, it’s lighter later, and since I don’t like to get up early, it’s light by the time I get up. Have you noticed that even after dinner you can still see things outside? Friday evening I was driving through the metroparks after 7 and I could see a number of deer in the field. Just a month or so ago at that time and it would have been dark and I would have been lucky to see the glow of their eyes. It’s a wonderful thing to be in the light again.
St. Paul reminds us that we were once in darkness and now we are to “Live as children of Light.” The Season of Lent is also a time to go through this change of darkness to light. One of the ways that we can do this is through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. A great benefit of the Sacrament is that we bring our sins to Christ who is “the light of the world” (John 9:5) the darkness which holds us captive is shattered. (Notice the Prayer after Communion: “Father, you enlighten all who come into the world. Fill our hearts with the light of your gospel.”) The Season of Lent is a wonderful time for us faithful to receive this great sacrament of healing and come into the light.
We have an opportunity to step into the light. St. Paul encourages us to: “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.” (Ephesians 5:11-13). As it is with any physical illness it is important to expose the wound to the doctor, so it is with the spiritual life. We must expose the wounds of our sin to the Divine Physician by bringing it into His Light. The temptation for us is to hide the wound out of shame or embarrassment or fear. One of Satan’s great tricks is to try to get us to hide things in the darkness.
Is there anything in your life right now that you are trying to hide? Is there anything that you are being tempted to keep in the dark and keep from being seen?
St. Ignatius developed the Rules for Discernment to help us expose the deceptions of the enemy to the light of Christ and “understand to some extent, the different movements produced in the soul and… recognizing those that are good to admit them, and those that are bad, to reject them.” (Harvey Egan’s Introduction to Timothy Gallagher’s book “The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Every Day Living. p. xvii)
In the thirteenth, out of the first fourteen “Rules for Discernment”, St. Ignatius helps us see first of all that we may have something in our life that we are afraid of exposing… this may not even be a sin, but it may be something the enemy is using to keep us living in the shadows. He then shows us in the Rule the importance of exposing “works of darkness” that are “shameful even to mention” and things “done in secret”. (Ephesians 5:12). He helps us to see that we have this tendency to hide things from God, from others, and even from ourselves.
“In this Rule Ignatius describes the enemy’s desire that we maintain silence regarding his troubling deceits; Ignatius will urge us, as we would expect, to do precisely the contrary,” and bring whatever is hidden in darkness to the light. (Gallagher 159)
So here’s the Thirteenth Rule.
The thirteenth: likewise he conducts himself as a false lover in wishing to remain secret and not be revealed. For a dissolute man who, speaking with evil intention, makes dishonorable advances to a daughter of a good father or to a wife of a good husband, wishes his words and persuasions to be secret, and the contrary displeases him very much, when the daughter reveals to her father or the wife to her husband his false words and depraved intention, because he easily perceives that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun. In the same way, when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wishes and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to one’s good confessor or to another spiritual person, who knows his deceits and malicious designs, it weighs on him very much, because he perceives that he will not be able to succeed with the malicious undertaking he has begun, since his manifest deceits have been revealed.
St. Ignatius, in rule thirteen, makes two points which clarify the necessity of exposing shameful, hidden, and secret thoughts or actions to the light. The image that Ignatius uses for the enemy is that of a false lover. “The false lover desires that the intended victim remain silent regarding his seductions since that silence alone permits the further progress of his selfish undertaking. If, however, the intended victim speaks to the proper person about these seductions, the false lover ‘easily perceives that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun.’ Once the silence is broken, the false lover is utterly defeated.” (Gallagher 160) So the first part is that the enemy will try to get us to keep it sercret, remaining silent, in the dark.
The second part is to do the contrary. Ignatius reaffirms that the enemy desires that “his wiles and persuasions… be received and kept in secret.” “When faithful persons are troubled by the deceits of the enemy they must not remain silent and isolated but should speak of their interior burden with the appropriate spiritual person. If they do so, they will be set free from the enemies’ deceits.” (Gallagher 161). If the enemy wants us to keep things secret, silent, and in the dark… then we must do the opposite and break the secret, tell someone… a wise confessor, break the silence, and bring it to the light.
Take a moment now and acknowledge any “fruitless works of darkness,” sins which are “shameful even to mention,” and “things done by them in secret,” which you may be struggling with.
Is there anything in your life that you your being tempted to keep in darkness?
The sins that you most want to keep in darkness are probably the ones that most need to be confessed. Don’t let sin have any power over you any more. This Lent… Bring it to the Light.
Every Parish offers the Sacrament of Confession on Saturdays usually before the Vigil mass. Most parishes will offer a Penance Service before Holy Week, and every priest is available by appointment if you call the parish rectory to set up a time for Confession.
To find a church near you go to: http://masstimes.org/ (After entering your Zip Code, click on the button “confessions”).