I am not loving having less daylight. Not only are there the usual shorter days, but when I’m supposed to have daylight, we’ve had gross cloudy days. I need the light. I’m drawn to the light. So are plants!
I spend my time thinking and overthinking about how to get as much light as possible, but for the plant, there is no thinking necessary. Phototropism (growing towards light) occurs because the tips of growing plant shoots contain a pigment that's sensitive to light, especially blue light. When light shines on the shoot, it gets absorbed by the pigment (called phototropin), and that triggers the release of the plant hormone auxin, which makes cells grow. The auxin is repelled by light and thus collects on the shady side, allowing that side to elongate.
The plant’s action is entirely mechanical, like a ball rolling down a hill. Just like the plants, it is innate in us to go towards light. Yes, like me wanting daylight, we literally need light to live, but it is also true spiritually. Sometimes it is a conscious decision, but most of the time we are just naturally drawn to the good, the light of the world.
The world seems dark. Even in the Church, it seems pretty dismal. I feel like every week there is a new clerical sex scandal. Then I turn around and people are horribly hateful to each other over liturgical differences. It seems our numbers are dwindling every year. Even in these dark times, we are drawn toward the light. We naturally hope for a brighter future. The theme for this first week of Advent is hope. Recently hope seems to be in short supply, but we must try.
So how do we have hope? First I feel like we have to put a concrete label on it. What is it that we hope for the Church? I hope that more people come back to the Church who have fallen away. I hope that the bishops, cardinals, and pope take more responsibility for the clerical sex abuse scandals and take swift justified action. I hope that those who have been hurt by the Church will find healing. I hope that priests can grow in their fatherhood, becoming more pastoral in their actions. I hope that individual Christians will take ownership of their churches and volunteer to help make changes. I hope that families celebrate their faith together in their homes. I hope that the church reaches even more of the sick and poor who need her.