Really Seeing

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A gospel meditation for the home
March 11, 2018 – Fourth Sunday of Lent - John 3:13-21

Today’s gospel is about life and death. It is also about light and darkness. These ideas can appear as abstract or poetic or words that can easily sail over our heads. We think that we’ve heard this all before. Even the sentence that begins, “For God so loved the world …” can come in one ear and out the other. For some, this gospel is not one that causes one to really sit up and listen. But that has changed for me this year when I read today’s gospel because of my experience of last year’s total eclipse of the sun.

I experienced that eclipse at the side of a highway in eastern Idaho. Like the millions who looked to the midday sky in total amazement, I viewed what truly can be called “a once in a lifetime” event. As an experience of nature, it was both baffling and beautiful.

While reading this Sunday’s gospel, it all came back to me. I pondered anew what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus. That he was the light of the world. That he also showed in that light, the deepest truth of all: that each of us is created by God to live forever with God in the light. In that sense, there is no darkness in heaven. Nor is there darkness (in that deeper sense) in this life when truly believing in God.

So how does this connect with my experience of that total eclipse of the sun? Why am I a little more appreciative of the difference between light and darkness? Let me describe how it was for me when light turned into darkness on that day and then came back.

It took what seemed an eternity for totality to be reached after we first observed, through those special dark glasses, the crescent edge of the sun being covered by the moon. As the moon moved in front of the sun or as the sun slid behind the moon (it was impossible to tell exactly what was going on) the sun slowly grew darker, although not by much. But then, in an instance, it all became dark and an instant later, the glow from around the blackened sun appeared. Like so many others, I had no words at that moment. It was the most AWESOME sight I had ever witnessed in nature. Light gave way to darkness and (literally) everything seemed to change.

The whole scene around us took on a range of colors that I had never seen before. The horizon all around us looked like it does at sunset. It was a genuine mystical moment. Of course, the darkness did not last. Light returned, and we were “back to normal.” But we weren’t the same. The understanding of light and darkness changed. Just as it did for Nicodemus when he met Jesus. He saw the light that brings life in a new way.

©David Thomas, PhD (