Ars Praedicandi: Another Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

We were fortunate to receive two homilies from the past weekend and wanted to pass this along from Fr. Austin Fleming, noted author and pastor of Holy Family Parish in Concord, MA.

An audio recording, along with the below text can be found on Fleming’s blog, A Concord Pastor.

It amazes me how much a change daylight savings time has made in my mood and my spirits.

Last weekend, I wasn’t very happy about losing an hour’s sleep but the long-term benefits are real and I’m grateful for them. I find myself looking out the window around 6:00 at night and just taking in the light, enjoying it and delighting in it, knowing that the days will grow even longer as the weeks move into spring and summer.

I don’t think I realized how much my mind and my mood,  my heart and soul were stuck in, wanting to leave the darkness behind — until I found myself in the light of longer days.

My spirit is lifted, too, when I hear in the gospel today that “Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn it, but rather that the world might be saved through him.”

In fact, I’m so taken by those words it’s easy for me to miss what follows:

“And this is the verdict.”

Jesus came to save – not to condemn – and yet, there’s a verdict.

John tells us:

“And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world but people preferred the darkness to the  light.”

I know that when I look out my window these days I do very much prefer the light to the darkness. But the scripture here is posing a different option: not the darkness and light of changing seasons but rather the desire to leave behind the shadows of selfishness and sin and to stand in the light of God’s grace and truth.

So, in that sense, which do I prefer:  the light – or the darkness?

  • The darkness here would be the shadows in which I hide, keeping secret any desires and deeds of mine I’d be ashamed to bring out into the light.
  • The darkness would be the cloud cover that keeps the light from shining on my envy of what others have.
  • The darkness might be in lonely corners where I hide my vulnerable heart and shield it from the risks and costs of love.
  • The darkness might be in caves where I store up my anger, grudges and resentment, secluding them from the healing light of God’s mercy.
  • Or perhaps the darkness is disguised by my smile: an outward, bright appearance masking the gloom inside.

The darkness might be any one or all of the ways I satisfy myself with less: with less than what God wants of me; with less than what God asks of me; with less than what God offers me; with less than what God made and calls me to be – a child of the light, drawn to the light, ultimately satisfied and only truly happy in the light of God’s grace and truth.

As it is with the change of  seasons, so in our hearts and souls: we often don’t know how deep is the darkness we live in, until we take a step or two into the light…

Lent is a time for discerning which I prefer: the light or the darkness.

  • In being more faithful to prayer in this season: I stand myself in the light of God’s presence to see more clearly the truth of who I am and what I prefer.
  • In fasting, in giving things up for Lent: the light of truth shines on my habits and hungers, on what I rely and depend upon, and I can see more clearly in what, in whom I place my trust.
  • In serving the poor in these 40 days: the light of  grace exposes my abundance, my need to have and have more, so I see more clearly how I’m called to share what I have with those who have so much less.

It’s not hard at all to see how we prefer the light of spring’s long days to the darkness of a long winter.

It takes much more work to discern whether we prefer the light or the darkness in our relationship with God and with one another.

With this weekend, the 4th Sunday of Lent, Lent is half over. And some of us might be thinking right now: “Whoa!  Lent’s half over?Guess it’s time to start thinking about doing something for Lent!”

And if that’s the case, remember this: it’s never too late to get on board the Lent train! That train is making a stop here today. This is the station. Jesus is the Conductor and he’s calling,  “All aboard!”

There’s even a dining car on the Lent train and there’s a place at table reserved for you where the Lord, who was lifted up for our sakes on the Cross shares his sacrifice and himself again, Body and Blood, in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

As we ride the Lent train towards Easter, take a window seat and look out every day and be grateful for the light in the sky and the promise of light at the end of our darkest tunnels.

And let’s pray for one another, that in this Lent, we all grow to prefer the light to the darkness.

If you have any resources, homilies, or suggestions for this new series, feel free to email Nathan at or fill out the form in the “Non Solum Question box” on the Pray Tell homepage.

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