Entrance Antiphon: Ps 95(94):6-7 — “O come, let us worship God and bow low before the God who made us, for He is the Lord our God.”
First Reading: Is 58:7-10 — “Your light shall break forth like the dawn.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 — “The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.”
Second Reading: 1 Cor 2:1-5 — “I have announced to you the mystery of Christ crucified.”
Alleluia: Jn 8:12 — “Alleluia, alleluia. I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life. Alleluia, alleluia.”
Gospel: Mt 5:13-16 — “You are the light of the world.”
Communion Antiphon: Ps 107(106): — “Let them thank the Lord for His mercy, His wonders for the children of men, for He satisfies the thirsty soul, and the hungry He fills with good things.”
There is a story told about Jonathan Swift, the 18th-century Irish writer, when he was quite old. And in case you don’t know who he is, he is the author of Gulliver’s Travels and many other works. He was visiting a friend and was looking out the front window of the house. It was nighttime, and the lamplighter was lighting the streetlamps. From the window, one could only see the lamps that were lit, and the light the lamplighter carried from one lamppost to the next. The lamplighter could not actually be seen. Swift remarked that the lamplighter was a good example of a genuine Christian disciple. The lamplighter’s presence was clearly marked by the lights being lit and those that kept burning even after he passed – even though the lamplighter may not have been known or seen.
We tend to take salt and light for granted in our society, but these commodities were more precious in ancient cultures. Just as now, salt was used in Jesus’ time for flavoring, as a preservative, and as a healing agent. Similarly, the widespread use of electricity in our modern world makes us less aware of the value and importance of light in our lives.
By the end of today’s Gospel, we have heard three times the importance of being light in a world of darkness. In the First Reading from Isaiah we heard that, in the work of justice, light shall break through darkness. In the Responsorial Psalm we prayed, the just person will be a light in the darkness. And in the Gospel, Jesus teaches that His disciples (and that includes each and every one of us) that we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
“You are the light of the world.” The job description of Christians is not only to maintain personal holiness, but the good works of Christ’s followers are to shine for all to see. At work, at school, in our neighborhoods, we touch many people who might not encounter Christ in church. Those places may be our most effective places to witness to Christ. This doesn’t mean preaching and evangelizing. It means touching the lives of those around us through our actions. As the Gospel says, “Let your light shine so that people might see your good deeds and glorify God.” The presence of Christians in the world must be like a light in the darkness, not only in the sense that the truth of God’s word brings light to darkened hearts, but also in the sense that our good deeds must be evident for all to see. To test whether we are fulfilling our Christian job description, we need to ask ourselves what I’ve challenged you to consider several other occasions: If we were arrested, brought to the local police station, and charged with being Christian, how many of you would get off scot-free for lack of evidence?
Jesus’ call to be salt of the earth and light of the world powerfully states our mission as Christians and as Church. Our commitment to social justice flows from the exhortation that Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel. Some of the activities that this commitment leads us to are stated more concretely in what we call the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy, which the Prophet Isaiah alludes to in the First Reading.
When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, console those who mourn, remove oppression, lies, malicious gossip, and so on, from our lives, we show ourselves to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. When we do these things with the community of faith, the Church, we are indeed acting as “a city set on a mountain that cannot be hidden.”
We are partners in God’s plan. God demands of us that we care, that we notice, and that we believe we can be an instrument of His goodness to others. That is why we gather here week after week around God’s altar, so that this Eucharist can feed us. This bread from heaven is the source of the grace and courage we need to be God’s people who have a mandate to be the light of the world in our interactions with our spouses, our children, our parents, our neighbors, and even strangers on the bus. As we receive this great Sacrament of love today, may the Eucharist enable us to move closer and closer to Jesus’ image of who we are and how we need to act.