4th Sunday of Lent              

            Some years ago, a group of eight Spanish college students made a pilgrimage to Compostela, Spain. There was something special about their journey. Every ten kilometers, four students would backwards and four would walk forwards, carrying a huge mirror. The four walking backwards would look into the mirror so that they could see where they were going.

            All eight students were wearing T-shirts which said, “The world is walking backwards!” What did this message mean? The students wanted to say, “The desires of this world are wrong… The world has its values reversed!” The ways of this world are not the ways of Jesus! The values of this world are not the values of Jesus!

            These young students were protesting because of what they saw surrounding them. They saw the huge mansions of the rich right next to the shanties of the poor. They saw so much affluence and luxury in the midst of so much poverty and hunger. They saw so much unused land in the middle of so many unemployed poor. “Something is wrong,” the students thought. “This is not the way God intended things to be.” “The world is walking backwards!”

            I believe this is also what Jesus means by saying, “This is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness.” I cannot think of a greater condemnation against people than this. Many people prefer to remain in the darkness or to keep on doing their evil deeds, and they refuse to come to the light.

            Perhaps our immediate reaction to this is: “I do not consider myself being referred to in this statement.” “Definitely I am not included among those who prefer darkness.” “I choose light… I live in the light.” We all want to believe that we do not prefer darkness to light. But our daily preferences might betray us. Let us pause for a while and honestly examine ourselves whether everything in us or everything about us points to the fact that we do not prefer darkness – that we are, indeed, living in the light.

            Our daily preferences and choices may show that, consciously or unconsciously, wittingly or unwittingly, we prefer darkness – we choose to stay in the dark. Why? Because there we can keep on doing the selfish things we do. There we can continue pursuing our personal agenda, our own individual interests, our selfish ambitions. There we can go on getting things for ourselves – accumulating things we do not really need. There we can stay in our comfort zones – indifferent, insensitive, and unresponsive to the needs of others. There we can remain indifferent and unconcerned – not feeling responsible to work for the common good.

            The choice is ours to make. We can choose to live in the light or in the darkness. We can choose to live according to the Gospel values – of truth and justice, of mercy and compassion – thus, have a meaningful and purposeful life. Or we can choose to live according to the worldly values – of wealth and power, of popularity and prestige, thus, have an empty and meaningless life. We can choose to live a life of humble service to the Lord and active participation in the mission of the Church, thus, find purpose and fulfillment in life. Or we can choose to live pursuing only our vain ambition or promoting only our selfish interests, thus, end up going nowhere. We can choose to forgive those who have wronged us and be forgiven by those we have wronged, thus, be at peace with others and with ourselves. Or we can choose to hold on to our anger and hatred, resentment, and bitterness, with thoughts of vengeance, thus, have a heavily burdened life.

            We have a choice because we were created free. And freedom is one of the greatest gifts of God to us. However, freedom is not simply the ability to choose among alternatives. It is not about having it our way or doing it our way. Real freedom is the ability to choose what is truly best for us. Real freedom is the ability to commit to the supreme good.

            True freedom is found in God alone. Sana ngayong Kuwaresma matuklasan natin ang tunay na kahulugan ng kalayaan. At, nawa, ang bawat isa sa atin ay maging ganap na malaya. The Lord says, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life…” (Deuteronomy 30:19) The choice is always ours… Let us hope that our choice or preference is always for God.    

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