1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The Gospel today follows immediately after the Beatitudes, which was proclaimed last Sunday. This positioning of the readings implies that the Beatitudes are not only to be lived but also be seen by others. Jesus uses a string of images. The true disciple is to be the salt of the earth, a light of the world, a city set on a mountain and a lamp on a lamp stand. What is the point of being baptized and being in a Christian community if we become completely invisible to others?
What does Jesus want people to see? A packed congregation? A magnificent church building with the latest technical equipment? Pilgrims overcrowding shines? Severe penitential exercises? Preachers who attract thousands of followers? All of these might be good, but our readings don’t mention them. Isaiah tells us to fight for justice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless. "Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…" Ordinary acts of charity and compassion bring light into the darkness. We don’t perform these good deeds for ourselves, so that others will think well of us or say how wonderful we are. No, the only reason for us to be salt and light is that people may be drawn to God. Maximum visibility is not to shine the light on us, but to point people in the direction of the God who loves them and is the source of their ultimate happiness.
The second reading reminds us that we don’t need to have elaborate training or postgraduate degrees. The acts of kindness Jesus wants from us are within the reach of the most simple, even illiterate, person. It is not a question of passing on knowledge but of sharing our experience of a loving God. As God has cared for us, so we extend that care to others. Our lack of skills or influence, education or power, can never be an excuse to hide our light under a bushel basket. The apostle Paul discovered that in his weakness and through his weakness God’s power became most evident, became a light shining through him.
Candles melt; bulbs burn out; and the sun sets. Perhaps this is why Jesus declared: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." We are not self-ignited. We are not the source of light. We do not shine on our own. The flame comes from beyond us. Make sure that the ultimate source of light (the first day of creation, God said, "Let there be light.") is the source of your light. "So that your faith [good works] do not rest on human wisdom [strength] but on the power of God."
Come, Holy Spirit, blow like the wind, burn like a fire, kindle a flame of love in my heart.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.