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Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

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The Light of Lent

Posted: 03/ 7/2012 2:19 pm

Please join the HuffPost community in "A Lenten Journey" for reflections throughout Lent, and join our online Lenten community here.

The following is excerpted from "Journey Into Light"

Sometimes, it is only in darkness that we can really see clearly. I look up at the sky on an Irish mountainside and the night is alive with light -- piercing, penetrating, gleaming light. If I looked at the same sky from the middle of Dublin or London or New York, the false light around me would grey the sky to the point where the stars are not even visible, let alone brilliant, demanding, magnetic.

It's a principle of life, this notion that the blackness of the night gives a particular power to the smallest of stars thousands of light years away. It's also a principle of life that the effect is as riveting of the soul as it is of the eyes. When life gets dark, it gets our attention like little else can. When bank failures spread across the country, we all began to see greed as we had never noticed it before. When the earthquake tumbled Japan, we saw the danger of nuclear plants like we had never noticed them before.

In the face of injustice, moral collapse, religious corruption, and hypocrisy, there is something in the soul, some natural impulse, some deep-down spiritual reflex, that simply rises up, full of the flame of integrity, to respond to it.

You can see it happen to Jesus in the Temple. He has come up to Jerusalem for the High Holidays. He has come to the most sacred place in Judaism and found it soiled by those who were meant to be protecting it.

Those who did not have animals to offer in sacrifice there could buy them on the spot. But the prices were unjust. Gouging was the name of the game. The vendors were dishonest like any roadside operators standing outside any shrine anywhere. But these were even worse. They stood inside the sacred place itself and did their dirty business -- exchanging money at dishonest rates or selling overpriced turtle doves to a people who wanted to participate in the ritual but could not afford to purchase cattle or sheep. And they were doing it right under the roof of the Holy of Holies. Acting like servants of the Temple, they were defrauding people who were only trying to be observant Jews.

All the light in heaven exploded in the middle of the soul of Jesus and he rose up, flaming anger at the sight of the desecration. He was completely focused on such a living contradiction of the spirit of the God who had freed this people from slavery and were now enslaving others themselves. And all in the name of God. But Jesus didn't just decry the practice; he drove it out of the Temple he loved.

The light of truth in Jesus is a blinding one: It is not enough to regret evil, he shows us. We must do something, each of us, to denounce it, to deter it so that tomorrow's dawn may be a brighter one for us all.

If the question is, What's the light of Lent here? The answer is a simple one: The light of Lent is the beacon that enables us to see under the obvious, the systemic, the hypocritical in both state and church to the evil they mask from us. It is the path to integrity, to righteousness, to the Spirit of God.