Today’s Gospel reading always leaves me with a chill running down my spine. Those four words: “And it was night” grab me every time. These are the words that come just after Judas takes the morsel and leaves the gathering. But let’s be clear: the evangelist didn’t include those words to tell us what time it was. In John’s Gospel, there is an overriding theme of light and darkness. The light and darkness, of course, refer to the evil of the world that is opposed by the light of Christ.
So when John says, “and it was night,” he is telling us that this was the hour of darkness, the hour when evil would come to its apparent climax. This is the time when all of the sins of the world have converged upon our Lord and he will take them to the Cross. The darkness of our sinfulness has made it a very, very dark night indeed.
Maybe we can relate to the darkness in a more tangible way these days. With the specter of COVID-19 looming over everything, one wonders when we’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. These days, the darkness of illness and death make this a very dark night too.
But we know that none of this is how the story is going to end, don’t we? COVID-19 will eventually pass. Even our experience of death and sin isn’t a permanent thing. Sure, the hour of darkness will certainly see Jesus die for our sins. But the climax of evil will be nothing compared to the outpouring of grace and Divine Mercy. The darkness of evil is always overcome by the light of Christ. Always. But for now, it is night, and we can feel the ponderous darkness sending a shiver up our spines.
I keep trying to look forward to the end of this health crisis and to imagine the day when I’m talking to you and not a camera. I can’t wait for that day. This is a dark time in our world, but it doesn’t get to be our permanent reality. Right now we have to stay home, for our loved ones, for the vulnerable ones, for the people who come after us. But we’re safe, and we have the promise of the presence of the Lord in our lives.
In these Holy days, we see all kinds of darkness: the darkness of this illness, the darkness that our Savior had to endure for our salvation. But may we also find courage in his triumph over this fearful night and burst forth with him to the brilliant glory of resurrection morning.