During these days two realities have been at the heart of your reflections and your celebrations - light and darkness. "Dream in the dark and live in the light" is the wonderful topic you have chosen for this meeting. Light and darkness are not two particular objects we can easily identify and situate in the space; they evoke a whole environment, we dream in the dark and live in the light. Are light and darkness material or spiritual realities? I would be tempted to answer both. Light and darkness refer to many other realities, positive and negative ones. Darkness evokes solitude, silence, contemplation, mystery, emotion, strange world, fear, expectations... Light, on the other part, refers to action, work, intelligence, loud voice, organization.. . And we could add many more. In our life, there is a time for light and darkness, day and night, contemplation and action, solitude and company, emotion and intelligence, mystery and clear vision. Personally I love this message of Wisdom about "a time for this" and " a time for that". Already in the first book of the Bible, it is said that "there was a night, there was a morning: the first day". Usually we do not do the same things during the day and during the night. And there are different temperaments: the people who feel more at ease during the day and others during the night. In Paris, we have a brother, Pedro Meca who spends all his nights living in the streets, meeting solitary people who have no roof to sleep under. He really lives in the night; I don't know if he dreams in the day. And what about yourselves? How do you feel during the day ... and during the night? Not only does light come after darkness and the reverse, but one prepares for the other in some way. We are said that Saint Dominique himself used to spend the night in prayer and the day in preaching. The Dominican life is sometimes resumed in that sentence "contemplare and contemplata aliis tradere" (it is not Chinese, it is Latin!): to contemplate and to share with others the fruit of our contemplation. It seems to me that it is exactly the same message as the one you chose for your meeting "dream in darkness, live in the light".
A few weeks ago I received a message from one the organizers of the present meeting (I will not name him or her). It was very brief: three lines! August 7th -Evening prayer: "Service of the light" - Scripture reading: Mt.5, 14. Through this message I knew that I was invited to tell you a few words at the end of this day, a moment when normally people are tired. So I think that it is an invitation to be brief. And the text that was proposed to me is only one verse of the Gospel of Matthew:
"You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden". Let us share some experiences about light in our daily lives and see what could be the similarities with our Christian and Dominican lives! I always enjoy to develop a topic in three parts -I don't know why- so I'll do the same here, saying that light brings joy, gathers people and chases fear.
Light brings joy. I lived in Africa for many years and it is the custom there to have a watchman in every house for the night, at least in the cities. And I can imagine easily what can be the joy of this man when the first rays of the sun appears in the morning after a night of expectation (sometimes of sleep also). You have surely yourselves experiences of that kind of joy. After walking for hours in darkness in a forest, for example, what happens when we finally discover a light, so weak could it be? When people gather around a fire that brings them light and heat, do they not feel joyful? During the sacred night of Easter, gathered around the paschal candle, we sing "Joyful light!". To be joyful should not be for a Christian just a question of character. There are optimistic people and pessimistic ones. No, our joy is linked with our faith in God the Creator of all good things. Let us appreciate with joy the goodness of the creation! As it is said in the Book of Genesis "God saw that it was good!" And joy is a Dominican virtue. Dominicans are joyful people, on the paths of their founder, our father saint Dominic. As I have already had a few occasions to take part in meetings of the Dominican Youth Movement, I know by experience that joy is also a characteristic of your group. Singing is a wonderful way of expressing our joy and many among you use this way for preaching too. So let us live in the light this message of the greatest preacher Saint Paul: "Be joyful, I repeat, be joyful!"
Light gathers people. Light attracts people, brings people together. We sit all around a fire. Light is a reality that is shared: it is nearly impossible when a light is turned on to keep it for oneself. It is the same for the Good News of Jesus. It has to be shared and lived in a community. Christian life is a community life. We need the help of the others to remain faithful to our commitment to the service of the Light. We are invited to share with other our experiences, our joy as well as our deceptions, our hopes and our fears. In the Dominican tradition, as you declare yourselves in your mission statement of Ocaña, there are four cornerstones one of them being the community. In reality the other pillars of the Dominican life are themselves colored by the community dimension. Our prayer, our study and our preaching are not individualistic activities, but common ones. Have you paid attention to the numerous words referring to community that are used in the Ocaña declaration: "Common appreciation, mutual relationship, communal values, common faith"? It is not mainly a question of words, but of life. The present meeting is certainly a high moment of sharing and community life, but after Maynooth, will it be the same?
Light chases fear. For many people, walking in darkness is a source of fear. I was like that at least when I was a child. I am not completely sure that things have changed. In darkness, we do not know exactly what are the things that surround us, what are the obstacles, the dangers we are faced to. We feel insecure. And the apparition of a light transforms the dangerous ghosts in innocent persons or things. Our lives are full of different fears, fear of others, fear of ourselves; fear of the risky present and of the unknown future.. The message of Jesus to his disciples is also for us: "Do not be afraid!" Whatever the situation may be, we are never alone. Jesus is with us, as it is remembered to us through the liturgical salutation "The Lord be with you!" And for us there is a future, an open future brought by the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is risen from the dead and from that event the death is overcome, and the evil will never have the last word. In face of a pessimistic environment, let our groups of the Dominican Youth Movement be communities of hope!
To be at the service of the light is to preach by our lives as well as by our words the message of Jesus: Don't be afraid, don't be sad, You are not alone.. Let us be communities of joy and hope, and so we will bring light to the world.
Maynooth 07.08 98