Letting the Light In – A Reflection for the New Year

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

The month of January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god with two faces, and at least at the beginning of the month, we tend to look back at what has been and ahead to what may be. I’ve been doing that, as I imagine you have, too, in free moments. (I hope you’ve had a few!)

At some point in December, public radio quoted lyrics by Leonard Cohen and, as poetry often does, those lyrics spoke strongly to my intuition, but it took some time and thought to put their meaning into words. Here are the lyrics:

Forget your perfect offering,
Ring the bell that still can ring.
There is a crack in everything—
That’s how the light gets in!

crack in everythingAt Christmas we celebrated how the Light got in—to our world, to our spirits—but that Light never would have come (as far as we know) if sin hadn’t caused the “crack” in everything first. Nothing after that sin is perfect; everything is flawed.

And everybody (except Mary and Jesus) is flawed as well. You recall the doctrine of original sin, and the phrase “our fallen human nature,” so we can forget trying to find or make a perfect offering, except for Jesus on the cross and at Mass, of course—the Light.

What can we do? “Ring the bell that still can ring”—which is what you do as you raise your families, provide formation in faith for every age of believer, offer care to those physically or mentally ill. We can’t wait for perfect programs, facilities or people: What we have and who we are is all we have to work with, so we go ahead, letting light in through the cracks, so our lives and our world will be full of light, despite or because of many obvious cracks.

So, next time you say to yourself, “I must be cracked to be doing this,” or someone else judges you in that way, please reply, “Yup. That’s how the light gets in,” and keep your soul in peace.

window and light 2God works best, it appears, through the flawed and the imperfect. That would be us.


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