Sunday, February 6, 2011

The light of the world

Being the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Gospel reading for today’s Mass is Matt 5:13-16:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Whenever I read this passage, I am reminded of a discussion that I had with a good Baptist friend many years ago. My friend said that he hoped one day, given the opportunity, to preach a sermon entitled “Christ is not the light of the world”. Obviously, my Baptist friend does not really believe that Jesus Christ is not the light of the world; rather, the title for the anticipated sermon would be to capture the attention of his audience for the intention of driving home the point that the Church is called to be the light of the world!
During Mass today, our parish priest preached an engaging homily on the above passage which drove home the same point as my Baptist friend made so many years ago – the Church is the light of the world. And the Church’s light shines as we Christians go out into the world with the light of Christ and actively live the Gospel. The Old Testament reading for today tells us how we are to live as lights of Christ shining in this world:
Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday. (Isa 58:7-10)
One small way in which our “light breaks forth like the dawn” and shines like the sun at midday is when we give ourselves to the cause of those in need; just as our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our greatest need – our need to have our sins washed away and forgiven so that we could re-enter fellowship with our God and Creator. This is the essence of true Christianity – giving of ourselves to meet the needs of those around us. This is echoed by St. James in James 1:27 when he affirms that true religion consists in living a holy life; and visiting the fatherless and widows in their distress.
By living in this way, our lives become images of the Life of Christ. And to be successful in living such a life of holiness and sacrificial giving to others, we are in deep need of the Life of Christ within us. The most obvious way for us to receive the Life of Christ is by attending Mass and receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord in Holy Communion. And once we have received Him, the priest proclaims the Mass as complete with these words: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.
And so, as the Body of Christ, may we go forth shining our lights in this dark world, knowing that we do so because we have received the Body of our Lord in Holy Communion...the Body of Him who is the Light of the world. And shining His light, may we shine as bright as the Son (Jdg 5:31; Isa 58:10; Rev 1:16).

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