He Must Increase

Saint John the Baptist said, “He [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). His words correlate to the change in light between the summer and the winter solstice. Jesus’ birth occurs around the winter solstice when the days are the shortest and darkest, but are increasingly filled with light; the sun increases as time goes. The Church celebrates John the Baptist’s birth in June, when the days are longest and increasingly shorter; the sun decreases. Since John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord, it is fitting that his “sun” sets and gives way to the Son. In another sense through his passion, John the Baptist  “decreases” so much that Christ’s light shines completely through him; he is another Christ, another sun.

We also want to decrease and allow Christ to increase, but sometimes it seems the darkness in our lives- whether weakness, personal sin, illness, the evil in the world, etc.- seems to dominate. How do we see the interplay between light and dark in our lives? Do we focus on the dark spots?

Our vision is about where light is and where it isn’t; everything we perceive in the world around us is based on how light interacts with the dark. What is the source of light and where is it? Where are the shadows? Shadows occur where the light doesn’t fully reach since darkness is merely an absence of light. The very fact that we can “see” darkness means there must be light illuminating the scene; the light allows us to differentiate between the two. Thus, when turned on its head, darkness is a sign of the light!

We are called to live in perfect light and in heaven, the “night shall be no more; they will need no light from lamps or the sun, for the Lord God shall shall give them light” (Rev 22:4-5). But in this world, we have to take the weeds with the wheat, the darkness with the light, and this should not discourage us!

In fact, the greater the darkness, the greater the light appears to shine! Think of the Paschal Candle, which leads the procession into the dark church during the Easter vigil- the vigil of the resurrection. Not only is its light enough to illumine the whole church, but from this single flame, all of the other candles are lit.

Like the flame of the Paschal Candle, Jesus “comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his tent,” to illumine our lives. At the “end of the sky is the rising of the sun, to the furthest end of the sky is its course.” Jesus rejoices “like a champion to run its course” in our lives and “nothing is concealed from his burning heat” (Ps 19:5). Saint Peter tells us that God’s “patience is directed towards salvation” (2 Pt 3:15), and the Psalmist says, “The Lord will complete what he has done in me” (Ps 138:8). Since “his power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20), let us not fear the darkness! Rather, we can ask the Lord to help us be open to the meaning of the darkness in our lives and what he would like us to learn from it. Let us pray for the grace to see the light no matter how dark it is, and He will increase in us!

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