College Days: Light Set Against Darkness

[Homily: ADDU “College Days,” Feb 1-3, 2012]

The celebration of our College Days falls on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. Under Jewish law, on the fortieth day after the birth of the firstborn male child, it was to be offered to the Lord and redeemed with an offering. In the case of Mary, Joseph and Jesus this was a pair of turtledoves. After they had complied with the law, they encountered the old man, Simeon, who in his old age had been waiting for the coming of the messiah. Upon seeing Jesus, he is filled with joy, and he utters his famous Nunc Dimittis, which is to this day prayed everyday in the Liturgy of the Hours: “Now you may dismiss your servant, Lord, for my eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared…” (Lk 2:29). In this prayer the Child is referred to as “light” – the reason why this Feast bears it special name, Candlemas or Candelaria – “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32).

It is a light, however, that is associated with upheaval, adversity and suffering, for it is light set against darkness. “Behold this Child is set for the rise and fall of many, a sign that shall be contradicted…” (Lk 2:34). Addressing Mary, the Child’s mother, Simeon predicts, “…a sword shall pierce through your own soul” (Lk 2:35). As we celebrate our College Days, we recall the theme of the Christmas epiphany: “the people that sat in darkness have seen a great light, and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, to them did light spring up” (Mt. 4:16). Light is set against darkness.

In the celebration of our college life, how are we light set against darkness? We are this in learning, in teaching, in research, in service to the community and advocacy.

In the transmission of knowledge, the training of skills, in the formation of values, in the preparation for professional lives, we are light set against darkness. When we take a high school graduate and prepare him or her to be a civil engineer or a chemical engineer, or an electronics engineer; or, when we take a young person and train him or her to be savvy in the use of communications media; or, when we train a young person to care for the sick and mitigate suffering; or, when we empower a young person to set up computer systems, organize meaningful data bases, and create useful programs; or, when we help young people to appreciate the human condition, the importance of the lived relationship with God, and help them not only to know the difference between right and wrong, but to actually choose the right over the wrong… we are light set against darkness. That is what we celebrate in our College Days.

In research, in the search for truth against lies, often at the cost of painstaking collection of data, analysis, reflection, documentation, writing, discussion and debate, we are light set against darkness. We are this when we bring to light the truth about corruption in government, or speak the truth about the environmental hazards of large-scale mining, coal-fired power plants and industrial spraying, or when we work to honestly reform the educational system, or even labor to make solar panels work for us, we are light set against darkness. That is also what we celebrated in our College Days.

In outreach, in sharing of this truth with others, in living our Christian Faith in Jesus Christ so that this rubs off on others, we are light set against darkness, even though some may not like the light. Self-interested miners call us bogus universities. Corrupt politician counsel us to stick to academics. Secularists scorn the acknowledgement of a sacred realm. But that is what being truth set against darkness entails. Truth draws forth contradiction. The most innocent of hearts, a sword shall pierce. But in celebration of College Days we know the university cannot thrive on dated regurgitated truth in cans. It cannot keep its discovery of knowledge for itself. It must share of this, even when it means pain, pain to the person hit by the truth, pain the person speaking the truth. That we accept and embrace this, that is what we celebrate in College Days.

But I wish to offer another consideration of how we are light set against truth beyond instruction, research and outreach. Consider: friendship. In friendship, we are light set against darkness.

Friendship is so much a part of our college experience. It cannot be made at will, it cannot be bought, it cannot be imposed. It is a gift. For many, it is arguably the most important gift received in the context of college life – a gift of life, often for life.

It is wonderful the way it comes about. People come together to learn. They share classrooms, teachers or students, books, tasks, assignments, projects. They converse about recent readings, insights in learning, about movies, music, computer apps, life, and life’s challenges. They laugh, they converse, they sing, they dance; they go to movies, go to parties, meet in discos. They even meet in prayer and worship. In coffee shops, they do what young people do today: they bond. They become friends. They share meals, problems, accomplishments, life.

One of the greatest gifts that happen at the Ateneo de Davao is when people move from acquaintance to friends, to good friends, to deep friends, to best friends, to friends forever, to soul mates – and even sometimes to lovers. This is a gift that goes “beyond borders,” transcends the boundaries of the studentry, faculty, staff and administration; penetrates even the wall between the employed and the agency workers. Friendship is a gift. And since it is set against loneliness, and all the darkness and morbidity that comes with this, we are light set against darkness. As a community, we are powerfully networked lights set against darkness.

Here, there is an even deeper level: friendship in the Lord. Friendship is deepened in shared friendship with the Lord. Networked friendship is deepened when warmed by shared experiences of being loved by God, or challenged by shared discernment of being missioned by God in this world.

In friendship, shared friendship, we are light set against darkness. For this we can be profoundly grateful as we celebrate College Days.

Simeon recognized the Child as light. In our learning, our instruction, our service to the community, and in our shared friendship, let us appreciate that in the Lord we are light set against darkness. This is a responsibility for which we can be grateful as friends – friends in the Lord.


About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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One Response to College Days: Light Set Against Darkness

  1. akeem fabila says:

    Thank you father..what wonderful write-up..happy college days

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