Homily - Exposing Darkness
Release Date: 12/03/2023
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Ephesians 5: 8 – 19
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “ Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.
An Exposition on Today’s Epistle Lesson
We have chosen the light over the darkness – therefore we have to walk as children of the light; as St. Paul puts it, “finding out what is acceptable to the Lord”
What is acceptable to the Lord? God does not hide this from us; nor do we have to search for it. He reminds us every single day… through the rituals He has prescribed for us through the Church.
The Psalm we recite in our morning prayers says that it is not burnt offerings, but rather a “broken and contrite heart” that God does not despise. Surely this is primal. I say this not only because of the prominent place this Psalm has in our morning prayer, but the way this theme is reinforced by all the penitential prayers that accompany it.
Continual repentance is acceptable to the Lord – to use the imagery of today’s epistle, we must “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them”: repentance requires opening up all the hidden closets – all the secret dark places – to the Light of Christ. And as this Light exposes the things that lurk in these places, we pull them out and offer them to the Lord in confession by name.
As we do this, as we find, expose, and sacrifice all the dark secrets, sins, habits, and histories that have blighted our souls; we walk more surely as “children of the light”, enjoying the blessings and joy that God has promised to those who follow Him.
God reminds us of this every day not just to tell us how important it is, but also because He knows how hard it is for us. Yes, it is hard for us to change bad habits and patterns of thought, but often it is hard for us to even recognize that we have a problem. The Light of Christ is pure and illuminates all of our sins, but our vision is still clouded. God is working with our faith to heal our vision, as in today’s Gospel, but in the meantime there are things in our lives that we just don’t see – or perhaps see but do not think are important.
This brings us to a difficult but vital part of today’s reading: we don’t just expose the darkness in our own lives, but the darkness in the lives of those with whom we share love and trust and are thus able to hear us. As St. John Chrysostom puts it;
You call God, “Father”, and those whom you love “brother;” but then when you see your beloved committing unnumbered wickednesses, you care more about his feelings and what he thinks about you than what is good for him? I beg you, don’t think this way. The stronger the bond, the more we are obliged to speak about sin.
Are those you love at enmity with one another? Reconcile them. Did you see them being jealous or coveting? Call them on it. Did you see them wronged? Stand up in their defense. This is why the bonds of love and friendship exist: so that we may be of use one to another. A man will listen in a different spirit to a friend than to someone he doesn’t know. He may regard a stranger or someone he isn’t close to with suspicion; he may not even trust a teacher; but a friend? A friend he may trust..
Today’s reading stops just short of making this even clearer when St. Paul writes; “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” The relationship of mutual submission provides the mechanism of discernment and accountability. The people who love us can help us see things that we need to work on and will share this information in a way that we can hear; without manipulation or aggression. After the line on mutual submission, St. Paul provides marriage as the ideal setting for such a relationship and then points to marriage as a type, with the Church as its prototype.
We need each other, but only to the extent we are willing to love and be loved. Within such a relationship, figuring out what is acceptable to God is a natural part of the relationship.
In conclusion, God made the world good and made us to thrive in it. This can only happen if we dedicate ourselves to this cause – and do so with purpose and resolve. Practically, this means avoiding taking pleasure in those things that God despises: deceit, hatred, darkness, etc. and reveling in those things that He has given us for our enjoyment and edification (community, light, joy, selfless service, charity, pursuit of truth, dedication to honest craft and creation).
And listen to these words St. Paul finishes with today as he describes what the conversations look like between people who are in love with the light and despise the darkness; we speak “to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
Let all of our thoughts, all of our conversations, and all of our actions become hymns expressing our joy of being in and growing in the Love of Our Lord together.