There are several references to light in today’s lectionary readings. Psalm 119 is both indirect and direct, calling on God to “let your face shine upon me,” while also saying to God that “the revelation of your words sheds light.” Jesus speaks very directly, telling his hearers (MT 6) “You are the light of the world” and then commanding them to “let your light shine before others” – not for personal gain, however, but to glorify God, the source of light.
I am occasionally not so fond of light shining on me – like this morning after less than 6 hours of sleep when the sun was already up over the mountain and calling me to open my eyes at 5:20AM. There was no way to hide from that light; covering my face under even a sheet in the sudden summery heat would have been suffocating. Facing the day seemed the more sane option.
One line in the Psalm response (119:131) was like a bolt of lightning ten minutes later and made my grudging start to the day worthwhile. I was not reading from any alternate, poetic or modern translation – just the USCCB* version – but the light of that line was clearly shocking me awake. Just after the verse about God’s words shedding light, the psalm said this: I gasp with open mouth in my yearning for your commands. That’s a far cry from “Teach me, O Lord, your statutes…”
Yearning is defined as “a feeling of intense longing for something” with synonyms such as longing, craving, hankering, urge, ache…To yearn, the dictionary says, stresses the depth and passion of a desire, sometimes accompanied by sadness. The psalmist was obviously craving the light of God, love being the motivating force but the weight of the world perhaps dimming the path toward that light. It seems to me that a sense of distance from God crashed into the psalmist’s desire like a punch in the stomach that caused such a gasp of yearning. I can just hear the follow-on to that cry to God: Tell me what you want! or Where are You? I’m overcome with longing and searching. Just give me a sign! I’m guessing that just the experience of that gasping in the yearning would have awakened a new depth in relationship with God. And who would not be willing to experience that?
*United States Conference of Catholic Bishops