Saturday, November 07, 2009

Light Travel

Science spends billions of dollars tracing light from far away. Just last week, such a light was detected by means advanced technology. The light traveled from a far away place – it took seven and a half billion light years to come within the limited grasp of scientific scrutiny. It is hoped that the light will carry information as to where the universe came from. I find it interesting that light can somehow be translated into theory or knowledge – that we can identify a source or a place through the light that carries traces of these.
Maybe the same can be said about God and saints and ourselves. For we come from the same light, the same source of life and saint seeking and making have something to do with tracing the lights and shadows of that light as it attempts to shine through us. The church takes great care in scrutinizing a human life for traces of God’s transformative power. Saints tell us, among other things, that the closer one gets to God, the more involved one is in life. To draw near God is to at once enter more deeply into the heart of living. To lose oneself in the joys and sorrows of life is to immerse oneself in God. The stuff of saints is never far away.
John Henson is thirty years old and his home is a federal prison in Coxsackie, New York. When Mr. Henson was eighteen years old, he broke into a home and in the course of a robbery beat a man to death with a baseball bat. He was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. At the time of his sentencing, he recalls thinking that his life was over. Something has recently happened to him that has poured new life into him. He has revised his thinking on life and loss. At the urging of a prison chaplain, Mr. Henson became a prison hospice volunteer. He sits with and tends to his dying fellow inmates. He was holding the hand of a dying man, a man who had told him that he was all he had as a friend. When the man breathed his last, Mr. Henson broke down in tears. “They just came out,” he said. “I do not even know why I was crying. Partly because of him, partly because of things that died within me at the same time.”
One of the nurses believes that the inmate hospices volunteer their time and their care in the hope of redeeming themselves.
St. Therese of Liseux desired to be given the chance by God to return to this life after her death to help sinners. To help them along the road to their redemption. To help them turn toward the light that is within them, the light that is God. And therein lies the living connection between the saints and our lives. We raise them up in the hope that their lights come from afar, and illumine this world and change and soften human hearts.
Mr. Henson did not know why he was crying. His tears may have come because he was given something from afar, a gift that drew him nearer to himself, to God, and to a dying man whose death broke his heart. And into that fissure a light found its way. A light from that place where the saints live and who travel across time and space to all sorts of places…to monasteries, to hospices, to correctional facilities, making saints out of those once lost. Mr. Henson softly held the hand of a dying man. Mr. Henson held as well a kind of light, a light so good and bright that it brought tears and a newfound sense of heart. It is what saints do, and what they hold when, they become like light.

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