Written by Sr. Rosemary, O.P.
Readings from: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041619.cfm
I remember learning about the gemstone, the opal. The opal, I learned, owes its beauty not to its perfection, as does the diamond, but to a defect. The opal is called a stone with a broken heart. It is full of minute fissures that allow air inside. The air refracts the light. As a result, the opal has such lovely colors that it is called “the lamp of fire”. An opal will lose its luster if it is kept in a dark, cold place, but the luster is restored when light shines on it, or when it is held in a warm hand.
As we look at our readings today, the opal and its meaning become very symbolic, a good visual image. In our first reading, Isaiah tells the people, and us, “I will make you a light to the nations”, and our responsorial psalm declares “you are my rock and my fortress”.
Yesterday, we witnessed the terrible and tragic fire of Notre Dame Cathedral. As horrible as this is, the news reports told the world that this is Holy Week, that the altar and the cross were spared, and that precious relics were saved. Images showed people in reverent silence or kneeling in prayer. Out of these ashes, people are united, hope is renewed, and the promises and pledges of new life for this cherished building are made. Isn’t this the message of Holy Week? By Christ’s dying and rising, new life, our life, eternal life, is restored.
And in our gospel, we meet 2 men, Peter and Judas, who both have major imperfections. Peter, however, eventually repents and lets Christ’s light shine gloriously in him. His luster is restored.
But when Judas leaves Christ’s company, the gospel tells us very simply, “it was night”. That statement conveys much more than just the time of day. In effect it means Judas turned his back on the light of Christ. He chose to stay in the dark.
In our own lives, like the opal, the imperfections we deplore in ourselves may be the means by which we reflect the lovely hues of God’s love. Will we choose, like Peter, to restore our luster through reconciliation, prayer, and good works, or choose, like Judas, to close our hearts by remaining bitter and cold to God’s love?
During this Holy Week, we are even more conscious of our faults and failings, sins and omissions, and how Christ paid the ultimate price to redeem us. As vulnerable as we are, we know that Christ desires His light to penetrate our whole imperfect being. Out of our ashes, like the ashes of Notre Dame Cathedral, comes new life.
At the Easter Vigil, we light the Pascal Candle in the dark, and light each other’s candles to symbolize that Christ is our light and we are to shine our light to others. Like the opal, we too want to refract Christ’s light and so be called a “lamp of fire.”
As we soon begin the Triduum, may we, like Christ, commend our spirits into the hands of God who alone can restore our luster.