Pastoral Message – February 5, 2023

Pastoral Message – February 5, 2023

You are the light of the world…your light must shine before others.

In 1988, President George H. W. Bush described his vision for an engaged and generous society in this way: “For we are a nation of communities…all of them varied, voluntary and unique…a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” He was encouraging a spirit of volunteerism that, if embraced by all, would replace the expensive and often ineffective efforts of Federal, State and local governments. Several years later, he launched a private, non-profit organization by the same name to support volunteerism. I often think of his words whenever I hear this week’s Gospel about being the light of the world; about having to put my light upon a lampstand so that it will shine to all who come near; about having to let others see my good deeds so that they will glorify the heavenly Father.

The word “light” is found over 200 times in the Bible. From its first appearance in Genesis when God says, “Let there be light” through the closing verses of Revelation where we read, “for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Throughout the Bible, light is always good. As in today’s reading from Isaiah and in the Responsorial Psalm, light stands in stark contrast to darkness that is generally evil, foreboding, or gloomy. In John’s Gospel, Jesus calls himself the “light of the world.” In the prior chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew writes, “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” He was using Isaiah’s words to hail the arrival of Jesus.

Today, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that they (and, by extension, we) are the “light of the world.” How can both Jesus and we be lights to the world? An analogy is that both the sun and the moon are lights to the world. The difference is that the sun is the source of light, the moon merely reflects the sun’s light. So it is with Jesus, who is light itself – the source of all light. It may be surprising that Jesus tells His ragtag band of disciples that they are the light of the world. After all, they were not among the world’s elite. However, this shows us how God uses ordinary people to live extraordinary lives for His extraordinary purpose! Jesus emphasizes that being His follower is an active, intentional commitment: “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” As His followers, He asks us to reflect His light to all whom we encounter.

If we take to heart that we are light, and live as a light to the world, we will transform others who come to see our light and come to know the Lord by the way that we lead our lives. It applies to all areas of our lives. When things around us are confusing and difficult, our light must shine. When we face problems and difficulties, our light must shine. When someone needs to hear the Good News, our light must shine. That’s the radical calling of Jesus and His Church. The Lord is determined to transform us so that we can transform others. Our goal is to glorify God every single moment of every single day of our lives. All that we think, say, and do must be for the “Greater glory of God” (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam). We bear witness to His grace and greatness by reflecting His great light as perfectly as we possibly can. We must have a burning desire to glorify God, so that we will rise up and let our light shine.

God not only has a mission for the Church, He has a master plan for the Church. His strategy is, in four simple words, “let your light shine.” That’s His strategy. Wherever God has placed us, we must let our light shine. If we do not shine where we are, how could we shine elsewhere? That is His strategy! Whenever it gets dark around us, we can either curse the darkness or light a lamp. Wherever He places us, we shine as a light.

Let’s be intentional about being a light of the world. This week we will each have many opportunities to potentially change someone’s life by showing them Jesus through our actions and words. Even if we are a little uncomfortable (maybe, especially if we are a little uncomfortable) or if it’s a little inconvenient, remember that we might only get one chance with that person at that moment.

If we allow God to work in our life, to shine where He places us, we will shine, not because we are good, but because Christ will shine through us. We may have the same problems, the same difficulties, but the joy of the Lord, the strength of the Lord, will shine through us. The lamp shines best when the darkness is darkest. Wherever we go, we shine as a light. People will be attracted to our light. We must let it shine!

Fr. Mike

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