A little light in this darkness

There are many things I enjoy in life, and daylight saving time is not one of them.

It seemed like just yesterday that the big red sun was setting across the warm summer sky around 8:30 p.m. Flash forward to December, though, and the tale is a tad different. Yes, walking out of work each day to total darkness somehow isn't quite the same.

It gets worse. The winter solstice is December 21, meaning this coming week will literally be the darkest of the year.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I attended Saturday evening mass with my parents in my hometown of Louisville. The priest at this particular parish is sort of a big-mouthed, whimsical fellow, and often infuses his sermons with a joke or six.

This weekend marked the beginning of advent, though, and for the occasion he took a somewhat more serious tone. Midway through his message, I perked up when he mentioned the name of Thomas Merton.

I'm not much of an evangelical reader, but Thomas Merton is one name I really do admire. His writings on Catholicism, community and life have always served as a source of inspiration to me, and so I was pleasantly surprised to hear the priest mention his name.

He spoke of Merton's grand epiphany, which occurred in Louisville on the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in 1958 and is marked by a historical plaque today.

Standing at the bustling downtown intersection, Merton was overcome by an abrupt and powerful insight:

"I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun."

This past year, I have admittedly been guilty of failing to grasp what Merton did on that street corner. I have lived days taking people in my life for granted or failing to realize all that they offer. Many times, I stopped seeking their light.

But in the midst of the cold and dark surroundings of this Christmas season, Merton's words remind us that people all around us project a brightness, a warmth that should dispel any doubts, permeate any darkness, and scatter any "sorrows or stupidities" of the human condition.

We've come to the end of another year. Whether yours has left you full of questioning or striding forward in confidence, may you delight in Merton's truth during this holiest of months.

Maybe it's not so dark after all. For we are members of a race in which God Himself became incarnate, and all around us people are shining like the sun.

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