Introduction: Today’s readings challenge us to choose freely and wisely to observe the laws given by a loving and caring God. He revealed His laws to His Chosen People through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament, and through His own Son, Jesus, in the New Testament. For the Israelites, the Torah was not a set of laws but the instruction or teaching intended to promote the holiness and wholeness of each believer. It was the revealed will of a caring God, for the people with whom had He made His covenant.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from Sirach, contains the clearest statement in the Old Testament concerning the God-given freedom of the human will. It exonerates God from all responsibility for evil in the world. “If you choose, you can keep the commandments . . . before you are life and death, whichever you choose shall be given you.” In the second reading, Paul challenges his Corinthian believers to appreciate the wisdom of God’s saving plan for His people, a plan hidden for ages but now revealed by the Spirit. In the selection from the Sermon on the Mount in today’s Gospel, while challenging his disciples to live a life of justice and righteousness which should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus, as the new lawgiver, sets forth his own position with regard to the Law given through Moses, by providing new interpretation and meaning for the old laws. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus explains the real meaning of three Mosaic laws concerning murder, adultery and false oaths.
Life messages : 1) We need to obey God’s Law, appreciating its basic principles: In obeying God’s law and Church law, let us remember the two basic principles on which these laws are based, namely, the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. In the first four of the Ten Commandments, we are asked to reverence God, reverence His holy Name, reverence His holy day and reverence our father and mother. The next set of commandments instructs us to respect life, one’s personal integrity and good name, the legal system, another’s property and another's spouse. Our obedience to these laws must be prompted by love of God and gratitude to God for His blessings.
2) We need to forgive, forget and move toward reconciliation as soon as possible. St. Paul advises us “Be angry (righteous anger) but do not sin” (Eph 4:26). When we keep anger in our spirit, we are inviting physical illnesses like hypertension and mental illnesses like depression. Let us relax and keep silence when we are angry, wait before acting on our anger, give it time to detoxify and cool off, pray for God’s strength for self-control, and give the Holy Spirit time to help us to see the event through Jesus’ eyes instead of through anger’s eyes.
3) We need to be true to God, to ourselves and to others. Let us allow God’s word of truth to penetrate our minds and hearts and to form our consciences, making us men and women of integrity.
O. T. VI (A) (Feb 12): Sir 15:15-20, I Cor 2:6-10, Mt 5:17-3
Anecdotes: 1) "I've got good news and bad news." A cartoon in a national magazine shows Moses with two tablets under his arm coming down a mountain. "I've got good news and bad news," he says. "The good news is I got Him down to ten. The bad news is adultery is still in there." Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard once said: "Most people believe that the Christian Commandments are intentionally a little too severe, like setting a clock half an hour ahead to make sure of not being late in the morning." Cable TV wizard, Ted Turner said that the Ten Commandments are out of date. I wonder which ones he would scrap. "Thou shalt not kill?" Absurd. Or "Thou shalt not steal?" Try stealing CNN's signal without paying for it. Probably he had in mind, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Turner has been wrong before. The Ten Commandments will never be obsolete. Adultery is just as serious now as then. And Jesus did not intentionally make his teachings a little too severe. He knew that happiness comes from living according to God's laws. Breaking those laws, or sinning, brings unhappiness and even death. The life of integrity, or righteousness, is the life God intends for us to live. So according to the Sermon on the Mount, integrity is a big deal.
2) "Never curse the umpire: Angelo Bartlett Giamatti was the President of Yale University, and later, the seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Giamatti loved baseball. He felt that the structure of the game was a paradigm of the human journey in which all of us seek to break from the box, make a wide turn and get home safely. At his memorial service, Giamatti's son recalled endless hours in which his father (clad in a vest, a tie and a Red Sox cap) pitched them in to him. His son also recalled a word of advice, forcefully delivered after a Little League argument at first base (with father admonishing son): "Never curse the umpire. He's the only one who knows the rules." It was Giamatti's contention, you see, that the beauty of the game ... indeed, the very ballet of the game ... required someone who could define the difference between ball and strike, fair and foul, safe and out, and who could also articulate the rules that give the game its structure. For the rules are to baseball as the law is to life. They are not the game. But without them, the game has no meaning. Or, as a character exclaims in Woody Allen's excellent film Crimes and Misdemeanours: "Without the law, all is darkness." In today’s Gospel, Jesus reinterprets the Mosaic laws giving them a new meaning.
Introduction: Today’s readings challenge us to choose freely and wisely to observe the laws given by a loving and caring God. He revealed His laws through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament and through His own Son, Jesus, in the New Testament. For the Israelites, the Torah was not a set of laws but the instruction or teaching intended to promote the holiness and wholeness of each believer. It was the revealed will of a caring God for the people with whom He had made His covenant. The first reading, from Sirach, contains the clearest statement in the Old Testament concerning the God-given freedom of the human will and exonerating God from all responsibility for evil in the world.“If you choose, you can keep the commandments . . . before you are life and death, whichever you choose shall be given you.” In the second reading, Paul challenges his Corinthian believers to appreciate the wisdom of God’s saving plan for His people, a plan hidden for ages but now revealed by the Spirit. In today’s Gospel, while challenging his disciples to live a life of justice and righteousness which would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus sets forth his own position with regard to the Law given through Moses by providing a new interpretation and meaning for the old laws. Jesus shows us how to go to the root of the commandments about murder, adultery, divorce, taking foolish oaths, retaliation and love of neighbour.
First reading, Sirach 15:15-20: The book of Sirach, one of the seven “Deuterocanonical” books, was written very late in Old Testament times. The author lived in a cosmopolitan, mostly pagan community that did not support his religious values. Hence, his book was intended for Diaspora, Jews who were exposed to the pervasive influence of a Hellenistic culture which believed that humans were helpless pawns in the hands of the gods. He asserted that there should be no compromise with the prevailing culture when it came to keeping God's law. God never forces us to do good or evil. It is our free choice to obey or disobey God’s laws, and we are responsible for the serious consequences of our choices. This reading and the Gospel lend solemnity and authority to each other. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 119), declares “blessed” those who obey the Law of God.
The second reading, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10, contrasts the wisdom of the prevailing Greek culture with the wisdom of God. Paul advises Christians to seek true wisdom in God’s revelation instead of indulging in endless discussions of Greek philosophy. God in His wisdom has saved us through Jesus and prepared for those love Him, “What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart.”
Exegesis: Jesus came to give the Torah its full meaning: In Jesus’ time, the Law was understood differently by different groups of the Jews to be 1) The Ten Commandments, 2) The Pentateuch, 3) The Law and the Prophets, or 4) The oral (Scribal) and the written Law. The Jews believed that the Torah (Law given through Moses), was the eternal and unchangeable Self-revelation of God. Jesus, and later Paul, considered the oral Law as interpreted by the scribes a heavy burden on the people and criticized it, while honouring the Mosaic Law and the teachings of the prophets. Today’s Gospel passage, from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” presents Jesus as giving the highest compliments to the Mosaic Law, although he himself would be condemned later and crucified as a Law-breaker. Jesus says that, as the word of God, the Old Testament has a Divine authority, and it deserves total respect. Its moral precepts are to be respected because they are, for the most part, specific Divine-positive promulgations of the natural law. For the Scribes and the Pharisees, the external fulfillment of the precepts of the Mosaic Law was a guarantee of a person's salvation. Jesus rejects this view in today’s Gospel passage, taken from the “Sermon on the Mount.” For Jesus, justification or sanctification is a grace from God. Man’s role is one of cooperating with that grace by being faithful to it. Jesus then outlines the new moral standards for his disciples. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that he did not come to destroy the Torah but to bring it to perfection by bringing out its inner meaning because he is the ultimate Self-revelation of God the Law-Giver. Jesus also explains the real meaning of three Mosaic laws concerning murder, adultery and false oaths.
Respect life in all its stages in words and deed: Jesus explains that the fifth commandment means respecting life in all its stages by honoring others in words and deeds. This means that we have to control our anger because it is the rawest, strongest and most destructive of human emotions. Describing three stages of anger and the punishment each deserves, Jesus advises his disciples not to get angry in such a way that they sin.
1) Anger in the heart (“brief stage of insanity” Cicero), has two forms: a) a sudden, blazing flame of anger which dies suddenly. b) a surge of anger which boils inside and lingers so that the heart seeks revenge and refuses to forgive or forget. Jesus prescribes trial and sentencing by the Village Court of Elders.
2) Anger in speech: Using words which are insulting (“raka“=“fool”), or damaging to the reputation (“moros” meaning a person of loose morals). Jesus says that such an angry one should be sent to the Sanhedrin or Jewish religion’s Supreme Court for trial and sentencing.
3) Anger in action: Sudden outbursts of uncontrollable anger often result in physical assault or abuse. Jesus says that such anger deserves hellfire as its punishment. In short, Jesus teaches that long-lasting anger is bad, contemptuous speech or destroying someone’s reputation is worse and harming another physically is the worst.
Jesus’ teaching on sexual sins: In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlines a new moral code for his followers, which is different from the Mosaic moral code. He insists that adultery, the violation of the sixth commandment, is also committed through willfully generated evil and impure thoughts and desires which remain in the mind. Our hands become causes of sin according to what we touch and how we touch, in lust or greed or violence. Our eyes become agents of sins according to what they look at. When Jesus recommends mutilation of eyes and hands he is not speaking literally, because we have more sins than we have body-parts. Besides, even if all offending parts were removed, our minds -- the source of all sins – would still be intact, causing us to sin by thoughts and desires. So Jesus teaches us that, just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body like an infected gall bladder, inflamed appendix, etc., in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to commit grave sin or which leads to spiritual death. Hence, these warnings are actually about our attitudes, dispositions, and inclinations. Jesus recommends that our hands become agents of compassion, healing and comfort and that our eyes learn to see the truth, goodness and beauty around us.
Jesus’ clear teaching on divorce: According Matthew’s version, adultery is the only ground for sanctioning divorce. Based on the NT teachings given in Mk 10:1-12, Mt. 5:31-32; Mt. 19:3-9; Luke 16:18; and 1 Cor 7:10-11, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament involving both a sacred and legal contract between a man and a woman and, at the same time, is a special covenant with the Lord. “Divorce is also a grave offense against the natural law. Besides, it claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death …. Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society” (CCC # 2384, 2385).
Be men and women of integrity and character: According to the teachings of the Jewish rabbis, the world stands fast on truth, justice and peace; hence, liars, slanderers, scoffers and hypocrites will not enter Heaven. The rabbis classified two types of oaths as offensive to God: 1) frivolous oaths using God’s name to support a false statement because this violates the second commandment and 2) evasive oaths using words like Heaven, Jerusalem, or my head because God is everywhere, and He owns everything. Jesus interprets the Mosaic Law on oaths to mean that we should be righteous men and women of integrity and character. If one is honest in his or her words and deeds, there is no need for one to support his or her statements and transactions with oaths or swearing. How forceful are honest words! (Job 6:25). An oath is a solemn invocation of God (So help me, God!) to bear witness to the truth of what one asserts to be the case or to the sincerity of one’s undertakings in regard to future actions. It is necessary and admissible to ask God’s help in the discharge of an important social duty (e.g., President’s oath of office), or while bearing witness in a court of law (“I will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth … “So help me, God.”). Jesus teaches, “Say yes when you mean yes and say nowhen you mean no” (Mt 5:37). That is, he invites us to live in truth in every instance and to conform our thinking, our words and our deeds to the truth.
Life messages: 1) We need to obey God’s Law, appreciating its basic principles: In obeying God’s law and Church law, let us remember the two basic principles on which these laws are based, namely, the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. In the first four of the Ten Commandments we are asked to reverence God, His holy name and His holy day and to reverence our father and mother. The next set of commandments instructs us to respect life, one’s personal integrity and good name, the legal system, another’s property and another's spouse. Our obedience to the laws must be prompted by our love for God and our gratitude to God for His blessings.
2) We need to forgive, forget and move toward reconciliation as soon as possible. St. Paul advises us “Be angry (righteous anger) but do not sin” (Eph 4:26).When we keep anger in our spirit, we are inviting physical illnesses like hypertension and mental illnesses like depression. Let us relax and keep silence when we are angry, wait before acting on our anger, give it time to detoxify and cool off, pray for God’s strength for self-control, and give the Holy Spirit time to help us see the event through Jesus’ eyes instead of through anger’s eyes.
Jokes of the Week
1) Bless my ex-sister. Two sisters spent the day fighting. That evening they prepared for bed, still mad at each other. As usual, each knelt by the side of her bed for their prayers. "Dear God," the 8-year-old began, "Bless Daddy and Mommy, bless our cat and dog." Then she stopped. Her mother gently prodded, "Didn’t you forget somebody?" She glared across the bed at her 6-year-old sister and added, "And, oh yes, God, bless my ex-sister." [Pulpit Resource (Jan-Mar 1992), p. 14.]
2) You win the war: My wife and I have a rule. We don't fight on Saturday nights. You know why? Because I have to preach on Sunday morning. Now I don't want you to get the idea that we fight the other six nights of the week. Quite frankly, I gave her an unconditional surrender several years ago. Husbands, let me teach you a lesson that will save you a lot of grief. When it comes to your wife, if you lose the battle, you win the war. (Rev. Curtis Fussell).
Websites of the week:
Bishop Barron’s online videos: https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/video/
Bishop Barron’s audio Sunday homilies: https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/
Bishop Barron’s video message on people with no religion in the U. S. A.:https://youtu.be/pG2mtELrxkg?list=UUcMjLgeWNwqL2LBGS-iPb1A
The Catholic Lectionary website (Dr. Felix Just) http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/
(Prepared by Fr. Anthony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction: The common theme of today’s three readings is our mission to the world as salt and light.
Scripture lessons: In our first reading, the Lord God through His prophet Isaiah gives us examples of how we are to allow the light of God to shine through us. “Share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (58:7, 10). St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us that our proclamation of Faith will carry the Spirit and His power when we rely on the power and wisdom of God. Using two simple metaphors of salt and light in today’s Gospel, Jesus outlines the role of Christians in this world. As a symbol of purity, salt was the common ingredient in sacrifices offered to God by Jews and pagans. In the ancient world, salt was the commonest of all preservatives, used to prevent the putrefaction of meat, fish and fruits in pickles. Salt lends flavor to food items and was used to season and preserve food. A light is something which is meant to be seen. A lamp or light is a guide to make clear the way. A light serves also as a warning (e.g., red traffic lights which tell us to halt when there is danger ahead. Finally, light, particularly the sun’s, gives warmth and heat.
Life messages: 1) We need to be the salt of the earth: a). As the salt of the earth, the Christian must be an example of purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought.
b) As the salt of the earth, the Christian must have a certain antiseptic influence on life and society, defeating corruption, fighting against injustice and making it easier for others to avoid sin.
c) As salt preserves foods, we have to preserve the religious Faith, Christian cultural values and moral principles, which Jesus has given us, and we need to work at reconciling the quarreling factions in families and communities. As the salt of the earth, we also have to add flavor to the lives of desperate people through outreach programs, to give meaning to the lives of people and boost their morale, to offer them occasions to help others, and finally to give hope where there is no hope.
2) We need to be the light of the world: The second role of Christians is to receive the light of Christ and radiate it to people all around us in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service. With a little bit of Christ’s Light, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many and removing the darkness caused by hatred, spite and jealousy. We radiate Christ, the Light of the world, by our kindness and respect for others with different ethnic backgrounds, different lifestyles, other faiths or no faith at all.
OT V [A] (Feb 5/2017): Is 58:7-10; I Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5: 13-16
1 : Salt and light: The story of EWTN is the story of a brave woman who had the courage of her conviction that she should be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Mother Angelica (who died in 2016), started broadcasting Catholic TV for just a few hours a day in 1981 from the garage of her Poor Clare Monastery in the US. The project grew and grew, and now, after thirty-five years, the Eternal Word Television Network is available twenty-four hours a day all over the world by cable and satellite. Mother Angelica is an example of a true Christian living out her Faith as salt to preserve Christian values and to provide the modern world with a purifying mass medium. She kept putting her lamp on the lamp-stand so that Christ’s Light would shine for everyone in the modern global village.
2 : Is your light shining? If you doubt your light matters, take this little quiz: 1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world. 2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Pageant. Do you know all these answers? Probably not. Ask yourself some additional questions: 1. Who fed and clothed you when you were helpless? 2. What was the name of your 1st grade teacher? 3. Who is the first friend you would call in an emergency? You do know the answers to these questions. They are the salt and light of the world.
3 : “I give them Jesus." St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) was speaking to persons who had come to meet her from all over the world. Among those to whom she spoke was a group of religious sisters from many North American orders. After her talk she asked if there were any questions. "Yes, I have one," a Sister sitting near the front said. “As you know, most of the orders represented here have been losing members. It seems that more and more women are leaving all the time. And yet your order is attracting thousands upon thousands. What do you do?" Without hesitating Mother Teresa answered, "I give them Jesus." "Yes I know," said the woman, "but take habits, for example. Do your women object to wearing habits? And the rules of the order, how do you do it?" "I give them Jesus," Mother Teresa replied. "Yes, I know Mother," said the woman, "but can you be more specific?" "I give them Jesus," Mother Teresa repeated again. "Mother," said the woman, "we are all of us aware of your fine work. I want to know about something else." Mother Teresa said quietly, "I give them Jesus. There is nothing else." (Margaret Davidson, Scholastic, 1971. Cited in BTBC, pp. 250-251.) We Christians have something the world cannot find anywhere else. It is Jesus, the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Introduction: The common theme of the readings today is our mission to the world as salt and light. In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah gives examples of how we are to allow the light of God to shine through us. “Share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (58:7, 10). St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us that our proclamation of Faith will carry the Spirit and His power when we rely on the power and wisdom of God. Using two simple metaphors in today’s Gospel, Jesus outlines the role of Christians in this world. The Christian’s task is to be the salt of society, preserving, reconciling, adding flavor, giving meaning where there is no meaning and giving hope where there is no hope. Every Christian needs to reflect the light borrowed from Christ and radiate that light in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.
Exegesis : The salt of the earth: In the ancient world salt was highly valued. The Greeks called salt divine and the Romans said, "There is nothing more useful than sun and salt." The English word 'salary' literally means 'salt money'. In the time of Jesus, salt was connected in people's minds with three special qualities.
(i) Salt was connected with purity because it was white and it came from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea. Salt was the most primitive of all offerings to the gods. Jewish sacrifices were offered with salt. The Orientals made their oaths with salt to ratify them. They believed that it was the salt that kept the seas pure. As the salt of the earth, the Christian must be an example of purity, exercising absolute purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought. God calls His children to preserve and purify. The Church is to preserve modesty (1 Tm 2:9), morality (Eph 5:3-12), honesty and integrity (Jn 8:44-47).
(ii) Salt was the commonest of all preservatives in the ancient world when people did not have fridges and freezers. It was used to prevent the putrefaction of meat, fish, fruits and pickles. As the salt of the earth, the Christian must have a certain antiseptic influence on life and society, defeating corruption and making it easier for others to be good. Christians are to be a preserving influence to retard moral and spiritual spoilage in the world. “As the salt of the earth, you are called to preserve the Faith which you have received and to pass it on intact to others. Your generation is being challenged in a special way to keep safe the deposit of Faith.”(Youth Day- 2002 Message by Pope St. John Paul II).
(iii) Salt lends flavor to food items. Job declares, “food without salt is a sadly insipid and even a sickening thing” (Job 6:6-7). One of the main functions of salt is to season food, to give it taste and flavor. This image reminds us that, through Baptism, our whole being has been profoundly changed, because it has been "seasoned" with the new life which comes from Christ (cf. Rom 6:4). ‘The salt which keeps our Christian identity intact even in a very secularized world is the grace of Baptism” (Youth Day- 2002 Message by Pope St. John Paul II). Christianity lends flavor to life, although people think the opposite about us. In a worried and depressed world, the Christian should be the one man who remains full of the joy of life, conveying it to others. It is our duty to make the world palatable (bearable), not just to others but also to God so that He can, so to speak, continue to bear with it, in spite of its "distasteful" wickedness. To be the salt of society also means that we are deeply concerned with its well-being. We have to preserve the cultural values and moral principles Jesus has given us, and in this way to make a contribution to the development of cultural and social life. Thus, we will be adding flavor to the common life. As salt seasoned and preserved food, and as it kept a fire burning uniformly in an oven for a longer time, the disciples were to improve the tone of society ("season" it), preserve the Faith, and extend the fire of the Spirit through their evangelization efforts.
Are we insipid salt ? Jesus went on to say that, if salt became insipid, it was fit only to be thrown out and trodden on by men. Usually salt does not lose its flavor and its saltiness. But when mixed with impurities, salt can lose its ability to enhance flavor. We, too, might lose our ability to be a "flavoring agent" for the world if we allow "impurities" into our lives (1 Cor 15:33). Therefore, we need to keep ourselves free from sin (Eph 5:3-7). Blocks of cow dung, mixed with salt and other animal manure and dried in the sun, served as fuel for outdoor ovens in the time of Jesus. When the fuel paddies were lit in an oven, the mixed-in salt would help the paddies burn longer, with a more even heat. When the family spent the salt-dung block, they would throw it out onto the road to harden a muddy surface. As the salt of the earth, the Christians keep the fire of Faith alive even under stress. If Christian "salt" loses its "flavor," its “uselessness” invites disaster. If a Christian is not fulfilling his purpose as a Christian, if he or she does not bring to life the purity, the antiseptic power and flavor of salt, then he or she invites disaster. His, or hers, is the fate of the repentant and returned apostate Jew in the Jewish community and the repentant apostate in the early Church. As penance for this sin, each had to lie across the door of the synagogue or Church and invite people to trample upon him/her as they entered. Today, there is a new, non-irritating, brand of Christianity around. It is without offense and without effect. Ah, but dear friends, Jesus didn’t call us to be the “sugar of the world.” He called us to be the “salt of the earth.”
The light of the world : The metaphor of light is often used in the Bible. The Jews spoke of Jerusalem as “a light to the Gentiles.” But Jerusalem does not produce its own light. It is God who lights the lamp of Israel. Moreover, Jerusalem cannot hide its light. When Jesus commanded his followers to be the light of the world, he demanded nothing less than that they should be like him, the One who claimed to be the Light of the world. "As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world" (Jn 9:5). Christ is the "true" or "original" Light (Jn 8:12). Citizens of the kingdom are simply "luminaries" reflecting the One True Light, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun (2 Cor 4:6). The radiance which shines from the Christian comes from the presence of Christ within the Christian's heart as the radiance of a ‘radiant bride’ comes from the love in her heart. Christians are to be torch-bearers in a dark world. We should not try to hide the light which God has lit in our lives. Rather, we should let it shine so that others may see our good deeds and praise God. St. Paul exhorts the Christians in Philippi “to be blameless and innocent in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world” (Phil 2: 15).
The role of Christians as Christ’s light of the world. (i) A light is something which is meant to be seen. (The lamp in Palestine was like a sauce-boat full of oil with a wick floating in it. When people went out, for safety's sake they took the lamp from its stand and put it under an earthen bushel measure, so that it might burn without risk until they came back). Christians must be visible like a "city" on a hilltop and a lamp on a "lamp stand." Jesus therefore expects His followers to be seen by the world (Jn 13:35; 17:21). In addition, they must radiate and give light. "Let your light shine before men" (Mt 5:16). By this metaphor Jesus means that our Christianity should be visible in the ordinary activities of the world, for example, in the way we treat a shop assistant across the counter, in the way we order a meal in a restaurant, in the way we treat our employees or serve our employer, in the way we play a game or drive or park a motor car, in the daily language we use, in the daily literature we read.
(ii) A lamp or light is a guide to make clear the way. So then, a Christian must make the way clear to others. That is to say, a Christian must of necessity be an example. “The light which Jesus speaks of in the Gospel is the light of Faith, God’s free gift, which enlightens the heart and clarifies the mind. It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ Who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). Our personal encounter with Christ bathes life in new light, sets us on the right path, and sends us out to be his witnesses.” (Youth Day message by Pope St. John Paul II). It is the Christian's duty to take a stand which the weaker brother will support, to give the lead which those with less courage will follow. The world needs its guiding lights. There are people waiting and longing for a leader to take a stand and to do the thing which they do not dare by themselves.
iii) A light can often be a warning light. A light is often the warning which tells us to halt when there is danger ahead. It is sometimes the Christian's duty to bring to his fellowmen a necessary warning. If our warnings are given, not in anger, not in irritation, not in criticism, not in condemnation, but in love, they will be effective.
iv) Light exposes everything hidden by darkness. Note Jn 3:19; 1 Cor 4:5; Eph 5:8–11. When our teens, baptized and confirmed, get pregnant and do drugs at the same rate as the general teenage population; when our marriages end in divorce at the same rate as the rest of society; when we cheat in business, or lie, steal, and cheat on our spouses at the same statistical level as those who say they are not Christians -- something is wrong. Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves whether we are the light which can be seen, the light which warns, the light which guides: these are the lights which the Christian must be.
Life messages: 1) We need to act as salt and light by sharing in Christ's ministry as priest, prophet, and king. As priest, Christ offered a sacrifice of love to the Father. What sacrifices of love do we offer to the Father? We can offer our married, single, or family life, work, outreach to others, and even relaxation along with our prayers and suffering to God. We can offer them at any time, but the best time is at Mass when we offer ourselves with Christ to the Father. As prophet, Christ proclaimed the Good News of salvation. He also calls us to evangelize others (both fellow-Catholics and non-Catholics), by word and example, at home and at work. We bear witness most effectively when others see the difference Christ has made in our lives, shining through us as the Light which can be seen, the Light which warns, and the Light which guides. Finally, as King, Christ became servant to all through His Self-giving. He also calls us to give of ourselves so the workplace and the home may become more humane. He calls us to serve in our parishes so they can grow and become more alive. He calls us to integrate our Christian Faith into our daily lives so that our service may be His service to others. So we make a difference as Christians when we offer ourselves to God, when we proclaim the Good News in word and example, and when we serve others. God calls us to worship, to witness, and to give.
2) We need to live our short lives as traces of salt and candles of light: It only takes a sprinkling of salt to transform a dull and tasteless piece of meat. Just a little salt transforms everything. Just a pinch of soul-salt will add flavor to the lives of hundreds, or even thousands. Just as salt acts as a preservative and adds flavor to food, so the exemplary lives of Christians lend flavor to life by helping people to live correctly and by keeping society wholesome. Just a little light empties the world of darkness. With a little Faith and love we can light up a big social area. Does that encourage us? It should. We may think we’re insignificant – and in a way we are – but with a little bit of Christ, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many. This Christ-light removes the darkness caused by hatred, spite and jealousy. Our good deeds and actions reflect the image of Jesus, the light of the world. We can speak with kindness and respect, we can value ourselves, we can tell the truth and we can use our talents. We can listen and talk, we can engage in dialogue and we can come to know people of different ethnic backgrounds, people with different lifestyles and sexual preferences, people of other faiths and people of no faith – and this will bring the light of Christ to illumine and change the world. Salt is a hidden but powerful influence. Light is a visible and revealing influence. Jesus tells us that we are not only to be the salt of the earth but also the light of the world. We are called to make a tangible impact on the world around us. Does our life make a difference? It should. Jesus said we are to be salt and light. Does our life make a difference? It can, if we surrender ourselves to Christ. Does our life make a difference? If we live for Him, it will!
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
1) Focus On the Family: http://www.family.org/
2) The Catholic Internet Directory: One of the most complete sources of Catholic information available on the Internet. A must visit! http://www.catholic-church.org/cid/
3) Internet periodical of current Christian news: http://www.cruxnews.com/
(Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)