‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied. ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.
There’s still a lot about what Jesus said that we don’t understand. We can cope with this failure by i) thinking he is not saying anything relevant to us because we don’t like being brought up against the limits of our understanding. Or, ii) we reduce his meaning to what we can handle easily – ignoring the deeper spiritual sense by settling for a black and white moralistic message. Whichever of these approaches we take towards the spiritual dimension will be reflected in how we find meaning in the events of our lives.
A few days ago a white supremacist rampaged in a quiet civilised city in a decent socially responsible country and committed an appallingly insane massacre of God-fearing men and women at prayer. For a while the whole world feels one, one with the families of the victims and all the people of Christchurch and New Zealand in their traumatised grief. Once again, we are reminded by an outburst of inhuman hatred of the need to affirm the common ground of humanity. We remember that what unites is more meaningful than what separates. Then, somehow – this is the paradox – the worst evokes the best.
Darkness can invade and flood the human being, singly or en masse. We call it dark because it produces behaviour that makes us want to close our eyes. We would prefer not to see it. It is darkness become visible and the demonic become tangible: a nightmare. Worse still, it demeans humanity everywhere. Just as heroic virtue or holiness lifts our self-esteem by reminding us what we are capable of, so inhumanity makes us question if perhaps we really don’t possess buddha nature, we’re not created in God’s image, we cannot be ‘other Christs’.
Unless we choose to see otherwise. ‘Seeing the darkness’ implies the presence of some dark, invisible light. We cannot see without light because seeing – consciousness – is light. Just as the universe is suffused with a mysterious dark energy that we do not understand, so a certain kind of light that we cannot understand shines in the densest darkness and the dark cannot quench it.
If we hate those who hate us what reward can we expect other than an escalation of hatred, the orgy of self-destruction that eventually concludes every triumph of evil? When people at prayer are mown down by a madman, the innocent imprisoned or the poor routinely exploited we should feel the pure anger of prophets. But if this anger leads to deeper hatred and violence the darkness merely thickens. When in the short formal remand ritual, the judge called the arrested man ‘Mr’, he refused to dehumanise even people who deny the humanity of others. The light shines in darkness. We see, through tears, how evil’s triumph can be reversed by humanising forgiveness, the ultimate winning card.