The Fifth Sunday of the Year (A)
Dear brothers and sisters,
What is the meaning of life? This question is one that is frequently asked but is, most unfortunately, given far too little serious consideration. It is often asked rhetorically, neither expecting nor requiring an answer. And yet, today the Lord Jesus Christ gives us the answer to this question: “Your light must shine before others,” he says, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16).
Your light, he says, must shine; my light must shine. How bright, how strong, is your light; how radiant is mine?
If we are honest, we know that our light does not shine as brightly as it should; nor does it shine as brightly as it could. Our lives all too often do not echo that of the just man sung of by the Psalmist (cf. Psalm 112). For this reason we are sometimes no better than tasteless salt, good only to be “thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13).
In the darkness of winter when the clouds often hang long and block the warmth of the sun, we know we long to see the sun in the sky. It’s brightness brings light, warmth and joy. If our light shines brightly, it, too, brings light to the darkness of people’s lives; it brings warmth to hearts grown cold; and it brings joy to those in apathy or sorrow.
We have all seen a radiant soul, someone whose light is perceived in their words, in their deeds, in their compassion. We call them the saints and for this reason the artists have often depicted them a ring of light encircling their heads. As people naturally gather around a bonfire, so, too, are they attracted to the light of the saints.
Pope Benedict XVI has said that “in seeing the darkness that today threatens their lives, youth can find in the saints the light that dissipates it: the light of Christ, hope for all men.” It is Jesus who says of himself, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
In the Passion of our Lord we learn the truth of his words that a lamp is not lit and then placed under a basket (cf. Matthew 5:15). Of the birth of Jesus the prophet Isaiah foretold long ago: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). This light continues to shine “in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” because he did not let himself remain hidden (John 1:5).
When he climbed the hill of Calvary for our salvation, the lamp of Christ was “hung on the wood of the cross,” from where he “sheds everlasting light on all those who dwell in the church.” It is his light that “shines through the darkness for the upright” and it is his light that must shine through each of us (Psalm 112:4).
If we live according to his law of love, the Lord has promised, “Then your light shall forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed” (Isaiah 58:8). Our light will only shine forth in this way if we reflect his own light through the example of our lives, as the saints have already done.
Saint Clare of Assisi teaches us that when we pray we should “place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!” This mirror of eternity is the image the Crucified Lord. For this very reason Saint Paul says he “resolved to know nothing … except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). It must be the same with us.
If our light is to shine brightly before others, we must spend time each day gazing into the mirror of eternity, contemplating the sufferings of the Savior and basking in the warmth of his light. If we do, we become mirrors like Moses, reflecting the light of the Lord’s glory to others (cf. Exodus 34:29-35).
Let us, though, not seek to dim the light of the Lord in our lives, but let us allow it to shine brightly in all that we do. We must remember these words of Saint Jerome:
When you see people freezing outside the church in the frigidity of
unbelief, without the warmth of faith, impoverished and homeless, lead them home
into the church and clothe them with the work of incorruption, so that, wrapped
in the mantle of Christ, they will not remain in the grave.
Through the witness of our lives, may his light continue to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death that they may know the One who is Light from Light (cf. Luke 1:79). Amen.