Follow the Light
by Melissa Cheng, Faith UMC Member
In the painting, The Incredulity of Thomas, Caravaggio used the technique of tenebrism - the sharp contrast of dark and light - to illuminate Jesus to a point where it seems as if he is radiating light. Behind him, the background goes starkly black, just as the rest of the world seems to fade away when placed by the bright light of Jesus. His light falls upon Thomas, who we can all see a bit ourselves in. Thomas's face conveys the astonishment of standing next to the risen Christ - the wide eyes of freshly eradicated doubt, the wrinkled forehead of surprise at beholding a fulfilled promise, and the gently pursed lips of overwhelm from being invited to touch the undeserved proof of love itself. Yet Jesus does not look at Thomas with a reproachful expression, but with gentleness, as he, and all of us, are welcomed and bathed in a light that lays bare and saves simultaneously. He invites us gently, but urgently, to repent and follow him.
It is this all-encompassing light which Wendell Berry describes in A World Lost. In it, he imagines people walking, "...into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are at once condemned and redeemed...Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgment. And yet, in suffering that light's awful clarity, in seeing themselves in it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty, and are consoled. In it they are loved completely, even as they have been, and so are changed into what they could not have been but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be.”
Let us journey though Lent in the "shadowless light" Berry speaks of, so we can see ourselves clearly, repent and let Jesus's light heal and refine us. And just as Caravaggio used the dark background to illuminate Jesus, let us also black out the calls of the world and within ourselves that lead us away from Christ, so we can see him radiantly and completely.
Let us examine ourselves.
Let us repent.
Let us follow the light.