I am going to ask you a question? We celebrate in this country a freedom that cannot be found in other countries. So, you have the freedom to do anything you want in theory. Granted, we know that some things are illegal and should not be done and other things are legal and can be done but may or may not be done.
So, if I have a hot stove over here and I have the freedom to do anything I want, why would I not put my hand on the hot stove. The answer is obvious because although I have the freedom to do it, I know that it would be detrimental to my existence.
Today’s Gospel reading is probably the most famous verse and that is John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believed in him may have eternal life.
However, there is more beyond that and it reads:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
The verse continues to describe that those who embrace Christ as the light are saved but there are those who do deeds of darkness for they reject the light and so they stay away from the light so that their deeds may not be exposed.
Now, to understand the light and the darkness let me go back to my analogy at the beginning. Obviously, I am not going to put my hand on a hot stove. However, if I am totally ignorant to the danger of a hot stove I might. If I refuse to learn about the dangers of the hot stove then I might be even more inclined. If the hot stove is at a temperature that it will burn my hand slowly so that I do not notice the damage right away until it is too late, I might even boast of my ability to put my hand on the hot stove proclaiming my freedom where you are afraid.
This is the principle that Jesus is teaching. When we embrace Christ and his gift of salvation we grow in wisdom. This teaches us a vision and an understanding that is beyond those who reject Christ because they have no wisdom.
Sin is essentially embracing my own understanding of wisdom or wisdom that is not of God. The Bible uses the term for that form of knowledge—foolishness. The fool is the one who says there is no God. Why because the one who says there is no God is like the cave dweller who says there is nothing beyond the cave. He has his followers who consider him a source of great wisdom but he is a fool. He is also what the Bible warns against: being wise in his own estimation.
So, when we embrace Christ and his relationship then we grow in wisdom and that wisdom leads us to a different understanding of world and our existence. We help each other grow in this understanding and help each other seek Christ as the light. We grow in our understanding of what is light and what is darkness.
This brings us to an important point. I read an interesting article this week on Medium from a man who was turned off of religion completely. He embraced spirituality and a relationship with God without the Church. Although, I do not agree fully with his article. It brought a good challenge to reflect upon as Catholics for we have the sacraments through which Christ bestows his grace. I do not bestow my grace upon, Christ bestows his grace through the sacrament through which I am at best an instrument. However, it led me to use this in my homily.
He explained that one of the problems, when a church goes bad, is that people assume the leader is the source of all truth and wisdom. He decided to leave the Church and seek his own truth. I disagree with his solution but not his diagnosis.
I am not called to be wiser than you. I might have a good theological education from which to help you grow in wisdom and you help me grow in wisdom. However, I am not called to be wiser than you.
All of us have the calling to be people of the light and to understand the difference between the light and the darkness.
We all have a call to seek the sun outside of the cave. We all have a call to understand true freedom which can be found in Christ.
Thomas Aquinas has an interesting teaching where he explains that evil is an imperfection. God is perfection so once we are united in mind and heart and will to God we are united to the source of all goodness. Until that time, I have an imperfect connection to God and so I am seeking to do good but I can still do evil which both Aquinas and Augustine called the privation of the good. Doing that which is less than the ultimate good. We can only do the ultimate good when our minds and hearts are united to Christ. So, the more we draw closer to the light the more we can see the truth in Christ who will set us free. Then we understand the difference between what humans called freedom and what is true freedom. We can see the difference between those who teach that there is nothing beyond the cave and the truth there is a whole universe beyond the cave.
So who are the saved? Those who seek the truth in Christ outside the cave. Who are those who are condemned? The people who are wise in their own estimation who never could be convinced there was a great world beyond the walls of the cave. Who boast about the total freedom they have including being able to put their hands on a hot stove.
They are condemned because they can never be convinced to leave the cave.
When we embrace Christ we follow him and leave the cave behind. After all, isn't that what Jesus did?