‘On those who live in a land of deep shadow, a light has shone’.


I don’t suppose the Prophet Isaiah, whose beautiful line this is from today’s First Reading, was thinking of the shores of the sea of Galilee when he wrote of the land of deep shadow.  Indeed, on my one trip to the Holy Land I found the obligatory trip to Galilee to be my favourite day, in spite of visiting many holier sites.  Galilee’s shores were warm and light, languid and lovely; the sea itself was a translucent azure blue under the sky; the surrounding hills bathed also in this near heavenly light.  Sitting on the seashore where Jesus had called Peter, Andrew, James and John, as in today’s Gospel, reduced me very willingly, and the many other pilgrims, to a contemplative silence.  Prayer came as naturally as breathing, and was just as exhilarating.  So I’m sure Isaiah, when writing about the land of deep shadow, was thinking rather of the human heart and its capacity, even inclination, for darkness.  Certainly there is evidence in every generation.  This Friday, 27th January, is the annual Holocaust Memorial Day when we rightly mark a most extraordinary chapter of humanity’s capacity for the resolute choice for darkness. The theme this year of Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘How can life go on?’ and I would strongly recommend a visit to its website, www.hmd.org.uk, in which we are invited to reflect not only on the Holocaust itself, but on genocide’s journey too within the same lifetime: Cambodia 1975-79; Rwanda 1994; Bosnia 1992-95; Darfur 2003; to name only the most prominent.  We might add, if we are less precise in our definition of genocide, the ISIS atrocities perpetrated against Yazidis and Christians.  Common to all genocidal killing is that the other, the object of the hatred, is less than of no worth but is nothing.  In its killing of over two million of its own people in Cambodia, a slogan of the Khmer Rouge was ’To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss’.  This is the hallmark of evil, of course, a sort of anti-destiny for each person and for humanity itself; eradication rather than flourishing.  Here we glimpse the depth of the deep shadow in humanity’s heart but upon which, amazingly, a light has shone, choosing not to abandon us to ourselves but to rescue us. ‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light’ as did Peter, Andrew, James and John on the shores of Galilee and soon they themselves would bear that light to others. For humanity’s sake and our own, in witnessing to that healing light which declares that life can and must go on and rise in goodness and love to its destiny, let us like them put down our nets and follow Him.     

Posted on January 20, 2017 .