But the devil doesn't like it when we try to light the darkness. He wants the darkness to permeate. And he is willing to use whatever it takes to tempt us into darkness. And he is very good at disguising what is false into something that seems good and true.
This year, like perhaps no other year that I have had in ministry, I have been able to take my Media Studies degree and put it to use even some 13 years later. The media and the face of it may change, but the underlying theories of mass media have not. Fortunately, I studied the theories of media instead of the production of it, which seemed crazy at the time, but now we live in a world in which the mediums have changed, but no one knows how to use these mediums or what messages they send.
I have long been a big advocate of using the media to evangelize, to spread the good news. But this gets harder and harder to do when so much news is fake and people no longer know what to believe. Everyone has become an author of "news" now, and even those who are good and earnest can be easily swayed.
We need the message of the Gospel more than ever these days, for this message has stayed true for thousands of years and offers light in the darkness.
My advent promise this season has been to read from the prophet Isaiah, which we kind of do anyway as a Church in Advent. The readings from Isaiah have hit close to home more than ever this year, as he describes a world that is living in darkness, similar to the one I feel like we are living in now, but offers the hope of the coming Savior. It is this hope that we need now. It is the message that has not been altered. It is the message that has proven true over time.
It was the reading from Zephaniah that really struck me yesterday on the feast of St. Lucy (one of my favorite saints. Mainly because I think the image of her holding the plate with her eyeballs is cool)
"Thus says the LORD:
Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted,
to the tyrannical city!
She hears no voice,
accepts no correction;
In the LORD she has not trusted,
to her God she has not drawn near.
For then I will change and purify
the lips of the peoples,
That they all may call upon the name of the LORD,
to serve him with one accord;" - Zephaniah 3:1-2
I think the thing that makes me saddest is that this election seems to have made us no longer want to listen to Truth or each other. The line from Zephaniah "she hears no voice" struck me. I feel like those that have been elected leaders aren't listening to people (or to intelligence briefings that might help them better run the country). And I think that we have heard so many voices over this past year that we just don't want to listen to each other any more, myself included.
In Advent, we are waiting for this time when the Lord will "purify the lips of the people...to serve him with one accord" but we cannot force this. This has to happen in God's time. We can encourage and support one another in prayer and action, but this is not something that we can make happen. No matter how I might want to force someone's hand or "purify their lips" on my own, this is for God to bring about, no one else. This brings me to my next point.
I have also been saddened this year because more and more people that call themselves Christians are not setting the example that we need to set. We are adding to "the tyrannical city" and oppressing people either with our words and/or what we choose to look away from. I have found that fellow Christians are either trying to force people's hands and condemn beliefs or are looking away from what is going on in our world completely. I have already addressed the forcing of the hand and oppression of others. And to the latter, this is a time of waiting, but I have been always taught that Advent is a time of "active waiting." We should be taking action, not just waiting to see what will happen.
So fake news, "tyrannical cities", passive Christians...where is the hope? Our hope is in our trust. I have to trust in goodness and God prevailing as the prophets foretell. Do I have to trust the media and my elected officials? Not blindly. They will have to earn my trust. And we have the right to challenge and correct them if what we have trusted them to do is not being done.
Though it has been tough to trust people of late for all of the reasons I have mentioned above, I have to keep telling myself we are a broken, flawed people. But that doesn't mean that we have to settle for that. We can work for change. And change is mentally and physically exhausting. But we have models for us in the saints, in our Blessed Mother, and in the Savior who stood up in the face of adversity, relying on their trust and relationship with God.
And so we persevere in hope, having to get up, dust ourselves off and try again as these models have showed us. There is light in the darkness, but we have to actively follow and pursue it, not just wait and see what happens.
St. Lucy, patron saint of the blind, open our eyes to the Light of Truth in Jesus this Advent and always.