I’ve heard it said many times: nothing escapes a black hole. I used to think there really was a big, dark hole in outer space. Well, thanks to Google, YouTube and all the heavy science displayed online, I now know that a black hole is really a dead star!
Can you imagine? Our sun is a star and I can’t imagine it ever dying. But powerful as it is, a star actually dies. It runs out of energy and loses its light. And what before was a powerful, gigantic fireball, implodes. It collapses inwards into itself, like a building blasted from within by dynamite, becoming a tiny fraction of its original size.
But even when it shrinks, the dead star retains its immense mass. So imagine how dense, how packed and siksik it is. And it also retains its gravitational pull. So even if it is far smaller with nil heat and light, its gravity is so staggering, it will pull anything meandering into its path.
That’s why it’s called a black hole. Even if there’s no hole. It’s actually a small, invisible, massive ex-star with gravity so astounding, nothing escapes it. Nothing—not even light. Can you imagine light not escaping gravity?
But most of all, don’t you find that rather ironic? Something bursting with energy before, so full of light, now grabs everything, and worst, grabs light. If a dead star could speak, maybe it would say: “Now that my light is extinguished, I will use all my power to snuff out others, too. Let’s all be dark. Magsama-sama tayong lahat sa aking kadiliman.”
From darkness into light
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those living in the land of gloom, a light has shone.” This light, Isaiah says in this Sunday’s first reading, has brought them “abundant joy and great rejoicing.” And his prophecy was fulfilled! When Jesus entered our orbit—our time and space—we who walked in darkness now see Jesus our light, our joy, our rejoicing.
What’s great is that this Light did not keep its brilliance to itself. Hindi siya sakim sa liwanag. What does the gospel today say? The Lord called Simon, Andrew, James, John; very ordinary, very simple people. With them he shared his light. When we say “shared his light,” he didn’t just shine his light on them, like a flashlight. He lit them up! Sinindihan niya ang mga ito upang sila mismo ay mag-alab at maging liwanag din para sa iba.
“You will be fishers of men,” Jesus said, just like himself. That’s why it is such a perfect double meaning when we say Jesus is the Son of God, Anak ng Dios and also “the Sun of God,” Araw ng Dios. The Lord brightens the world not by grabbing all light like a black hole, but precisely by sharing himself as the Light.
So if we believe that the Spirit is within us, then we must believe that Jesus has been sharing His light with us, kindling it within us. The problem is, in spite of that, we can be such walking black holes sometimes —such light grabbers.
Mega-stars and nega-stars
In our Jesuit community, I’ve had brothers who, when they enter a room, fill it with light, laughter, and cheer. Not just jokers who make us laugh. I’m talking about Jesuits who are light-hearted, forbearing and forgiving, attentive and affectionate, who are not afraid of friendship and closeness, not afraid of admitting their own darkness and mistakes.
When they walk into a room, they light it up because their focus is never the good in themselves but the good in others.
There were also guys who upon entering, did quite the opposite. The room hushed down because we were afraid we’d say something wrong, or they’d be in their usual bad mood, no time for nonsense and petty pleasantries. And when they did talk, all the negativity, criticism, blaming and complaining spilled forth.
And so, very slowly, we would politely excuse ourselves one by one, and slip out very gently, very unobtrusively … until the black hole is again alone in his own darkness.
I guess, in any community, there are mega-stars and there are “nega-stars.” The mega-stars share their light and appreciate the light of others. The nega-stars? They carry around their darkness. Worse, they grab the light from others.
Am I nursing darkness?
Is it the same with families? Do they have stars and black holes, too? Here’s a thought-question: In your family, is there someone who is a light-sharer — cheerful in self-giving, patient and forgiving, principled and affectionate? And is there someone who’s a light-grabber — uncommunicative, unforgiving, lazy but complaining, or principled but cold and unaffectionate?
How do you think your family sees you? Are you a star or a black hole?
Actually, we all have our moments of being either one or the other. But if we’ve been dark for quite some time—if we’re always masungit, over-critical, uncommunicative, unforgiving, and our loved ones have been walking wide circles around us lest they fall into our dark hole, maybe we can ask ourselves: Why am I nursing this darkness? What exactly do I gain from it? Do I actually think I am more loved this way? Is a black hole more lovable than a shining star? Maybe it’ll also help to ask a bit more deeply: What has extinguished my light? Is it my job? Is it school? Is it my marriage?
We regain our light not when we collapse into ourselves. We gain back our light when we look away from ourselves towards our Light and our Salvation, as today’s psalm says. We can never be the source of our own light. We can never save ourselves.
So when our light has gone out—kapag tayo’y napundi na, parang patay na bituin, kailangan nating makisindi—we need to get a light, having lost ours—kasi hindi natin taglay ang sarili nating liwanag. Hindi natin kayang iligtas ang ating sarili. The Lord—he is our light and our salvation.
So if you’ve been in a deep dark place, you can ask God over and over again, “Pasindi naman, Panginoon, pasindi po.” Can I have a light?
(Jesuit Fr. Arnel Aquino teaches theology at Loyola School of Theology and has composed and recorded religious music. This article is edited from his homily last Sunday.)