Long before there was radar and satellite navigation, the captain of a huge battleship was patrolling the Canadian coastline. His massive ship was moving rapidly through a thick fog. Suddenly, directly in front of him, he saw lights. The captain got on the ship’s radio to the other party and demanded, “You must change direction by 20 degrees immediately.”
The reply came back, “No, you must change your direction.”
The battleship captain yelled into the radio, “I am the captain of a 35,000 ton battleship, and we are streaming at 22 knots. You must change direction by 20 degrees immediately!”
The reply came back, “Well sir, I am just a simple seaman. But you must change direction because I’m speaking to you from a lighthouse 100 meters from shore.”
This story of a simple seaman in a lighthouse serves us well as a metaphor for the three readings we hear on Palm Sunday.
For the first reading, the lighthouse is the suffering servant described by the Prophet Isaiah. Like a lighthouse, the suffering servant of Isaiah is constantly committed to serving others who are in captivity. Equipped by God with a receptive ear and persuasive tongue, despite all kinds of conditions, the servant is willing to persevere in accomplishing God’s saving will. No one is lost on the rocks of sin and death if they listen for the voice and follow the light of the suffering servant.
For the second reading, the simple seaman who operates the lighthouse is the crucified Christ described by Paul in his letter to the Philippians. “Well, sir, I am just a simple seaman” is Jesus who surrendered his identity as God to serve the weary, the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the hungry, and the forgotten. Jesus not only accepted our humanness with all its flaws and weaknesses, he chose to be a simple sailor, so to speak, who stands ready with a lamp lit at night and the horn sounding when there is fog to give hope and direction to a people who suddenly realize that their ship can sink.
For the gospel reading from Mark, the lighthouse is Jesus whose light guides us through life. The apocalyptic aftermath of Jesus’ death—darkness, earthquakes, tombs opening, dead rising—is Mark’s way of showing us that three days later the risen Christ will be our light despite the darkness of death.
A week from today, we will light and bless the Easter fire from which the Easter candle will be lit. From which we will light individual candles to remind us of the light of Christ given to us at our Baptism. “The Light of Christ—Thanks Be to God!” are the words we will sing to validate that our salvation comes from the God who loves us.
The Lighthouse in the Harbor by Cindy Johnson
I am a lighthouse in search of a ship.
I am standing on the shore looking over the sea.
I search day and night through the dense fog….
Looking for the ones……the ones that are searching for me.
I see many ships they follow my light to shore.
I try to guide them all in safely to shore but some fail to reach me
because they do not see the light that shines deep within me.
When I finally bring my ships in….
They are drawn to the light I project within my heart.
When the ships finally meets the lighthouse….
They will be together in the harbor…..the harbor we call love.
Fr. Bob Kelly
Lighthouse photo by Richard Schletty