We just heard Jesus tell you that you are the light of the world (MT 5:13). Notice that he says, “You.” He is not talking just to someone who lives far away or to the person next to you. He is talking to you. You are light. It’s too easy to say, “Look at what the Lord is saying to those people long ago near the lakeside.” It’s not long ago; it’s now. It’s you.
This sounds rather lofty, to be the light of the world! But it is not a compliment. To be identified with light in this way is an enormous responsibility. Because whatever light is and does, the disciple is to be and to do. We are either light or else the world is dark.
It’s not always easy being the light of the world. The darkness of sin tries to overwhelm the light. Our own sin. The sin of a society that is increasingly secular, even post- Christian. The darkness of violence, of war, of hatred, of error.
Sometimes the darkness is oppressive. The darkness of depression, for instance, or of a heavy financial burden, or an addiction in yourself or your family.
Yet, Jesus insists; ‘You are the light of the world.’
In difficult circumstances, Jesus demands that you be light even if you do not feel it. It’s not ‘you are the light of the world except when darkness grows’. No, oppressive darkness is when the world needs your light most of all.
How then is this possible? On our own we have neither the power nor the purity to generate enough light for ourselves, never mind the world. You are not the source of the light you shed. If it were up to you and I the darkness would have won long ago. No, the light you shed is a reflection, a refulgence, of that one true light, Jesus. He is the sole source of light and of truth. It is his divine and all powerful light that illuminates the hearts of baptized believers so we reflect his light into the world.
What does that mean, then- you are the light of the world? Jesus himself tells us in the Gospel passage we just read: “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (MT 5:16). The light that we shine on the world is in the good works that we do. Works that are done in obedience to the living God.
We have some examples of good works and the promise of light from our first reading from Isaiah:
‘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’. (Is 58:7)
It is the light of dawn that enables us and others to find their way to the truth- to God- God in whom there is no darkness at all (1 JN 1:5). As we heard in our Responsorial Psalm, “The just man is a light in darkness to the upright” (PS 112:4). We have the mandate to spread the goodness, kindness, joy and hope- in other words the light- of Jesus to the world.
Good works then are a natural and necessary outcome of discipleship. On our own we have neither the power nor the purity so that our good works bring glory to the father and to be a light that shines before others. It is good worked not for our own self-love but good works that are a reflection of Jesus’ divine love that shine with a light that enlightens the world.
Pray with me, brothers and sisters, that this day and all days our good works and our light will shine before others and glorify our heavenly Father.