Friday, January 3, 2014

HOMILY, ST. JOHN’S DAY St. John’s Convent, December 27, 2013

Exodus 33.18-23; Psalm 92.1-2, 11-14; 1 John 1.1-9; Luke 5.1-11
In the name of God, for the love of God, to the glory of God. Amen.

When I was living in Minneapolis back in the late 1960s, I had a friend who earned her bread and butter working as a graphic artist but at heart she was an abstract oil painter. She was captivted by light and colour and form. She gave me one of her paintings, a large one about 4 feet high by 2 feet wide – abstract of course, with a lot of blues and oranges and dynamic form and movement. I asked her if it had a title and she called it “The Kansas City Zoo.” Now there was absolutely nothing about that painting that would make you think it was depicting a zoo. But that painting graced my living room wall in three cities I lived in, and it was really important to me. You see, Jane was a mentor to me. She taught me how to see colour, how to see light in a new way.

One time when I was still living in Minneapolis, Jane and I made a car trip to a ski resort in northern Minnesota called Lutsen, not far south of the Ontario border and what was then the twin towns of Port Arthur and Fort Henry (now Thunder Bay). Everything was still deep in snow, and if I hadn’t been travelling with Jane I would have seen nothing but boring brown and white the whole trip. But on the way up to Lutsen Jane would say things like “look at those beautiful red berries on the side of the road” or “I just love the amazing subtle shades of brown and grey in the forest” or “the snow is brilliantly blue in the sunlight” or “see how the light just dances off the snow,” and so on. That trip was literally an eye-opening experience for me – I felt as if I had been blind before, and now I could see colours and shades and hues and textures everywhere. Nature came alive to me in the dead of late winter.

I expect all of us have had experiences that we would call eye-opening. Maybe not about colour and light the way I did with my friend Jane. But we have all had mentors who have helped us to see in a new way.

And that is what our Patron St. John has been for me. He has helped me to see the light and beauty in the face of Jesus, in the face of my sisters and others that I am privileged to know through this wonderful life that we live. And I want to reflect on that for a few minutes in connection with the readings we have just heard.

In the reading from Exodus, Moses asks to see the glory of God – the light of God. But he is granted only to see God from the back, because just as on Mount Sinai, seeing the face of God would have blinded him.

In our gospel reading today John is given a more direct gift of sight. Because he has met God in the person of Jesus he can look upon the glory of God, the light of God, in a way that Moses never could. Jesus, his friend, showed John the glory of God – and that glory was what must have called John, along with his brother James and their friends Andrew and Peter, to leave their fishing and respond to Jesus’ invitation to “catch people.” They were first drawn into a relationship with Jesus in fellowship and teaching and prayer. Out of that relationship came their life mission – to share with others the beauty, the love and glory of God as they saw it in the face of Jesus.

In the first letter of John, we hear these beautiful words: “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands concerning the word of life. . . . this is the message we have heard from him (that is, from Jesus) and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

There is no darkness at all. Even in the midst of personal pain and grief, even in war zones, even in the midst of widespread power failures in our city, in the cold and the dark, the light of God shines through as we share that light with each other. This past week is a good example – the beauty and glory and love of God were seen everywhere – in neighbours helping each other, in churches opening their doors as warming centers and church members going door to door in their neighbourhoods checking on the elderly who might be cold and alone, in people gathered around the fireplace in one room, seeing family in the light of the fire in a way they never could watching TV or sitting in their own rooms doing their own thing on their electronic devices. And we saw it here over Christmas, with those who were finally able to come for the Christmas retreat, in the faces of those who joined us for Christmas dinner, in the light and joy on the faces of those who would otherwise have been alone.

There is a pattern here that we see wherever the love of God touches people, whether they
Sister Constance Joanna
are aware that it comes from God or not – like Moses who was called the friend of God, and like John the beloved disciple, we are first called into a relationship of love, and we are then sent out to share that love.

The message of the scripture readings today is that the light and glory and love of God is so brilliant that we have to share it. We can’t keep it for ourselves. We can’t focus on our own comfort and safety. The glory of God spreads when it is shared. That is what friends and mentors do for each other. That is what neighbours do in a crisis. That is what John did when he left his fishing and went around with Jesus, spreading the glory. And that is our own mission as a Sisterhood.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in God there is no darkness at all.” May we help to spread that message, that light, and that glory.