Choosing Light or Darkness

I will live forever. Whether that’s good news or bad news is up to me.

I’d say ‘it depends on me,’ but that’s not quite true. What I decide and do matters. But having an unending life in God’s presence isn’t something I achieve.

Today’s Gospel reading, John 3:1421, got me started. That’s part of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus. The fourth Sunday of Lent scrutinies Gospel for this year, John 9:141, tell the “a man blind from birth” account. It’s got a similar theme.

I’ll be talking about believing, doing and sinning. That last may need explaining.

The way I see it, sin doesn’t mean breaking the rules of a particular culture. It might, but not fitting in isn’t what’s sinful.


I should be loving God and my neighbor, seeing everyone as my neighbor and acting like I believe it. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31, 10:2537; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1789)

Sin is what I do when I don’t act like I believe that. It’s offending reason, truth — and God. (Catechism, 18491851)

Knowing I should act and think like love matters is one thing. Following through on that knowledge is another.

If God demanded inhumanly perfect behavior, hope would be limited to delusional folks. That’s not, happily, what the Church says.

I’m a Catholic, so I think we’re all sinners. And that the Apostles Creed is right about forgiveness. (Catechism, 827, 976983)

That’s where “scrutinies” come in. They’re mainly for the RCIA, Right of Christian Initiation of Adults. I suspect that sort of thing doesn’t hurt as a ‘refresher course’ for any Christian. Scrutinies are a way to look for and heal inner defects, glitches, and sins.

The Elect

There’s more about scrutinies, and other ‘what we believe’ stuff, in a Lenten parish bulletin from 2012.

The bulletin uses terms like “the elect.”

It’s a Catholic bulletin, so “the elect” doesn’t mean what many American Christians seem to think. It’s not a bunch of holier-than-though hypocrites.

That’s not what it’s supposed to mean, anyway. I’m not convinced that all American Catholics understand what the Church says about that sort of thing.

“The elect” are folks who live with our Lord. (Catechism, 1025)

God knows who “the elect” are. That does not mean some of us are damned no matter what we do. Or ‘saved.’

The Bible’s poetic imagery notwithstanding, God isn’t at some particular place in this universe. God knows who ends up where after this world’s closing ceremony because God is there ‘now.’

God isn’t ‘in’ this universe, and is “here” in every place and every time. God is also where time and space are not. I don’t understand exactly how that works, since I’m not God. (Catechism, 202, 300, 600)

I think predestination is interesting, but has little practical value. That hasn’t kept me from talking about God’s viewpoint, role models and decisions. (October 1, 2017)

Also malignant virtue and Holy Willie. (February 4, 2018; October 1, 2017)

I’ll find out if I’m one of “the elect” after my particular judgment. That’s the interview with our Lord that happens right after death. (Catechism, 10211025, 1031, 1344)

It’s my opportunity to opt out of Heaven. It’s a real option. A daft one, I think, but real.

Quick recap. The rules are simple. I should love God and my neighbor. Everyone is my neighbor, so I should love everybody. No exceptions.

It’s simple. Not easy.

When I don’t act like I believe the “love” rule, that’s a sin. It happens. So does forgiveness. But only if I notice that I need it, and use that knowledge constructively.

If I keep that up — I can still opt out of Heaven. It’s not, putting it mildly, my plan.

“The Light Came Into the World”

Today’s Gospel readings are both from John. Their ‘light and darkness’ imagery starts in John 1:15. Make that ‘is reintroduced.’ The light-darkness thing starts with Genesis 1:34. This is the non-scrutinies Gospel:

“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.
“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
“And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.
“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.
“But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
(John 3:1621)

I’m about as sure as I can be that these verses aren’t about street lighting or cats. Light can be a sort of ‘here I am’ point of reference for the Holy Spirit or an image of “blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ.” (Catechism, 697, 1027)

Among other things. Like all Christians, part of my job is being a “light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:15; Catechism, 1243)

That doesn’t necessarily mean being all ‘sweetness and light.’ And it sure isn’t a mandate for nocturnal arson.

On the other hand, I suppose someone’s been convinced that they’re a ‘torch of God.’ It’s likely enough. Some folks have trouble sorting out their biases, unchanging realities, and that’s another topic. (January 19, 2018; February 1, 2017)

One of these days I’ll most likely talk about folklore, faith and Nietzsche. But not today.


I could say that John 3:1621 is all about ‘good’ people who enjoy good health because God likes what they’re doing. And that God smites ‘bad’ people with storms and afflictions.

That sort of thing appeals to some folks, unless human nature’s changed considerably. Which doesn’t seem likely.

I could say that. But I won’t.

For one thing, I’d have to try ignoring my neural glitches and psychiatric problems. (December 17, 2017; October 8, 2017; September 10, 2017)

That doesn’t make sense.

Or I could practice unctuous ‘humility.’

Or I could pluck “whoever believes” out of the text and say that everybody’s saved because God loves us so much. That’d probably appeal to another audience.

None of that makes sense. Not to me. Besides, hypocrisy is a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it. Truthfulness in what I say and how I act is. (Catechism, 2468)

Working Out My Salvation

My long-term goal is spending eternity with our Lord.

What I do now makes a difference. ‘Working out my salvation,’ as Philippians 2:12 puts it, is important. But I can’t work or pray my way into Heaven.

I can’t just sit back and “believe” either. Thinking lovely thoughts won’t cut it.

“So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
“Indeed someone might say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
“You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.”
(James 2:1719)

I rely on our Lord. It’s faith and works. (Catechism, 430451, 10211022, 10381039, 1051, 18141816)

I figure I’ll do “works” if I take what I believe seriously. And that’s yet another topic. Topics:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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7 Responses to Choosing Light or Darkness

  1. mr o shays says:

    Works most certainly are vital.
    I have been in Spirit and know it was because of works that this was done for me; involved a healing too.
    Just saying that we don’t have to wait until after our time is done here.
    We can see for real simply by doing for others and doing with our whole heart ensuring we do so quietly and without fanfare.
    I am witness to this.

    • Good point.

      Some of what’s ahead is, I think, also ‘here and now.’ The ‘doing with my whole heart’ – that is very far from easy, for me. That is something which I think I may be working toward for as long as I have time.

  2. mr o shays says:

    To do with your heart, just make a conscious decision to help ONE.
    The one will be put before you, just wait.
    I was lucky.
    I was asked to help one I did not know.
    A woman at a bar at a wedding asked me to locate her sister who lived in the same town I lived in and asked me to help her.
    I wasn’t entirely enamoured of the request.
    Tearful woman at a bar with drink in her, not a great scenario. But I thought about it and said yes.
    Eventually I did locate her, via facebook; no longer on that entity, and when I met the girl I knew she was in dire poverty, without street smarts but also, not unhappy.
    I gradually gained her confidence, which was awkward as she had a very young daughter, I was very aware of paedophiles and their methods so you can imagine the concern.
    I spent some money on her when ever she would allow.
    Simple grocery shopping, tobacco when she needed it which was often and I always responded to her texts no matter the hour.
    That’s all I did.
    Some time later, about two years, lying on a hospital trolley attached to an MRI scanner where my left leg was being scanned to determine how much needed to be removed, I watched above me the ground that God walks on open up and watched as I was raised above and through it.
    Short version, my doctor said the lump in my leg was simply one of those things that often go away by themselves – he’s an atheist.
    I have had many encounters since with Mary His Blessed Mother, culminating in the Image She gave me at Knock.
    Eventually I realised all these this Divine encounters were because of my willingness to help without any regard for the cash I spent.
    This is not a boast, simply an affirmation of what the gospels tell us.

    Pray this;
    “Show me Lord Your way, that I may walk in Your truth’.

    Just before coming on here to check responses, I was on a Carmelite site and that prayer was right there.
    My next click was to here.
    Take as a fact, there are no coincidences with God.
    That prayer is specifically for you.

  3. Plenty of material in this post for a non-ending discussion. I’ll just comment on one or two.

    I have written extensively in my Blog and in my books about forgiveness. I think it is probably because I do not understand it. Forgiveness, is an act, a decision, that we make, consciously and willingly. That done, we still suffer the pain of daily reminders of the wrongdoings done to us. With this pain comes resentment, anger and ill-feelings. We can’t control them. Even having forgiven the reminders trigger these feelings in us. So we try, as best we can, to decide to forgive once again.

    You also mention love. Another act of consciousness, or is it a feeling? I can decide to “love” everyone. But is this really possible? When I see in real life, or on TV news, someone doing something wrong, and continues to do so. Can I possible “love” him? How? I have not even met this person on TV and I am unlikely to do so. I abhor the wrong he has done. But he is my neighbour; so Christ tells me. I am supposed to “love” him. How can I, a human, love my neighbour as God has loved us? It is not possible. He is God. I am not. He looked down from the Cross and forgave and loved. My humanity forbids me, blocks me, from doing the same. Am I at fault?

    God bless.

    • Deciding that sort of fault is God’s job, not mine; which is a good thing. I’m not qualified to judge persons. 😉

      Being the sort of creature I am, a human, I can think about general principles and how we act. Things like forgiveness and love can, I think, be emotions. My language uses the same words to describe acts of the will which may or may not have the emotions as a sort of echo.

      It’s easier, certainly, when my emotions are in synch with my reason. But that doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like.

      Forgiveness – that’s a thorny one. In real life, platitudes like ‘forgive and forget’ just won’t cut it. It’s still important, I think. I did a quick look at that last year:

      Good points. Thanks for adding to the ideas here.

  4. irishbrigid says:

    Not sure about the grammar here: “The fourth Sunday of Lent scrutinies Gospel for this year”

    So are you using the Oxford comma or not? “It’s offending reason, truth, and God.”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

    • – – – Yeah. Oops. And fixed. Changed, actually.

      About the Oxford comma, good question. In this case, the idea I had was to separate the final “and God” from the rest of the sentence, so I added an M-dash, a convention I’ve adopted in such cases. Not consistently, in all likelihood – this is written for communication, not as a textbook example. 😉 Again – thanks, and fixed. Or changed. And appreciated. Good question!

Thanks for taking time to comment!