As a good priest, part of my work is doing research to make sure I am up to date. So it was out of a spirit of service that last week I spent one hour and forty minutes doing pastoral research watching the movie Tangled. As most parents and grandparents know, Tangled is the Disney version of the fairytale of Rapunzel. One of the more enlightening scenes is where Rapunzel and the robber Flynn find themselves trapped in a cave. They are trying to find a way out when Flynn says Its no use, I can’t see anything…it’s pitch black down there. It is only then that they discover the light, and they see, and we see the saving value of light.
This is important for us because it is easy for us to underestimate what Jesus is saying. Our problem is that we are too used to lights – just see how hard it is to be separated from our mobile phone. But Jesus’ point is that ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, all of humanity is in darkness. And if you don’t believe me just read a news website for 5 minutes. A darkness of hearts which don’t see properly, and so choose darkness and selfishness and ugliness – which is all sin ever is – and remain in darkness. But Jesus says to us today that that that is not the end of the story: that, if we want to follow Him, we can have our lives enlightened – to see reality more clearly, to make better decisions about the one essential, which is love, and to have our heaviness lightened into joy. And the light who is Jesus saves us from this.
The first thing Rapunzel’s light brings is encouragement: even though I am in the darkness, at least if I welcome the light, I can see, I see I am not alone, and I am warmed and heartened by the light. This is the very point that St Paul makes about that ultimate experience of darkness we have, death. Although we are in the darkness of grief, Paul encourages us to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. Why is this? Just like the light in the cave, the light of Christ changes even our experience of death. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him…those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever.
The other thing Rapunzel’s light brings is the way out: because her hair produces the light, Rapunzel herself is the way out. And Jesus says the same of himself today: those who are not prepared to follow him remain in the darkness: “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” This is not harsh, it’s Jesus respecting of our freedom – those who don’t want to follow Jesus, that’s ok, they don’t follow him into the wedding hall. But, for those who do want to follow Jesus, they follow him into the wedding hall: as Jesus himself says, Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall – and Jewish weddings feasts were not just one night – they went for at least a week. This is the kind of joy Jesus comes to welcome us into: an eternity of being in his company – already here on earth! – having no-one to fear, nothing to worry about, even in the darkest darkness being fundamentally unshaken – because I am there with him, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit, warmed by his light – and I will never be alone ever again.