Late one night the Teacher sat around a blazing fire with a small number of disciples. Their conversation was broken by periods of silence when they gazed at the stars or stared into the glowing embers. Suddenly the Teacher posed a question: “How can we know when the night has ended and the day has begun?”
Eagerly a young man answered, “You know the night is over when you can look off in the distance and tell which animal is a dog and which is a sheep. Is that the right answer, Teacher?”
“It is a good answer,” the Teacher said slowly, “but it isn’t quite the answer I would give.”
A second disciple ventured a guess. “You know the night is over when the light falls on the leaves and you can tell whether it is an olive tree or a fig tree,” she said.
Once again, the Teacher shook his head. “That was a fine answer; still, it is not the answer I seek,” he said gently.
Immediately the disciples began to argue with one another. Finally, one of them begged the Teacher, “Answer your own question, Teacher, for we cannot think of another response.”
The Teacher looked intently at the eager faces before he spoke. “When you look into the eyes of another human being and see a brother or a sister, you will know it is morning. If you cannot see a brother or a sister, you will know that no matter what time it is, for you it will always be night. And you will always be in the dark.”
The Gospel today shows the clash of two ideas of what Religion should be. To the Pharisee religion was about ritual. It meant obeying certain rules and regulations. It is like the person who performs all the external acts of religion but never offers to help his fellow man or woman. The person who has no compassion, no sympathy for the other, no sense of sacrifice. It is the person who does not see the other as his brother or sister.
To Jesus religion was about service. It was about loving God and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. It was about love in action.
To Jesus the most important thing was not the correct performance of ritual but rather responding to the needs of another.
When you look into the eyes of another human being and see a brother or sister, you will know it is morning.
Image: “Polar Night Morning Light – Arctic Dawn Mid-December” by David Nikolai Kastrup is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.