Epiphany 5A, Feb. 9, 2014 Homily at STM, Toronto
Jesus came among us as the light to scatter the darkness of a fallen world and to heal our fear of death and darkness. The world remains fallen, but not without hope because of Jesus – the Light of humanity.
As his disciples, we are also called to bear his light to this fallen world. So St. Matthew tells us in the Gospel reading this Sunday and we are often reminded of the essential nature of the light of Christ in the Gospel according to John ( John 1:4–4, 9; 8:12; 9:5).
The three images that Jesus uses in the Gospel today describe the Church because they are associated with the identity of Israel and so of the New Israel, the Church: salt, light and the city on a hill.
God forever aligned his Kingdom with the Kingdom of David and his sons by a “covenant of salt.” Salt was, for the people of Israel, a sign of permanence and purity (see 2 Chron. 13:5, 8; Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24).
Jerusalem is a city built on a hill, high above all others. The role of Jerusalem, as Jesus taught, is to draw all nations towards the glorious light streaming from God, symbolized by the Temple (see Isa. 2:2; 60:1–3).
The Temple ultimately was replaced by Jesus, the Christ, himself – the Light of the nations, and the glory of his people Israel.
Light: Israel was given the mission of being a light to the nations, that God’s salvation would reach to the ends of the earth (Isa. 42:6; 49:6).
Salt: We are to be salt; a very small element in cooking, salt gives zest to the other flavours.
City of a Hill: The liturgy shows us this week that the Church, with every Christian united in Baptism, is called to fulfill Israel’s mission as a city raised up amongst the nations. Small though we may be, we occupy the heights and we can inspire and give life to others, to all God's children.
Through the gift of our shared faith and by being dedicated to assisting others (the nations), we are agents allowing the light of God’s life, breaking forth in the darkness. This is outlined in this Sunday’s Psalm:
“Unto the upright there ariseth up light in the darkness.”
This week’s readings, then, remind us that our faith is light on the path and can never be a private affair, never something we should hide as though under a basket. Faith is a light for the path that we and others tread.
The Holy Father has called us to the New Evangelization which is a multi-faceted effort to share the light of God for the path of humanity that we are seeking to follow and that all people are called to.
In our small community we have initiated a small (salt-like) initiative to offer two hours on Wednesdays at noon to pray for our city and the world with those who can come to adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
There are as many other ways in which we may witness to the light of God as there are individuals. We must each find a way in our own lives, at home at work, in the wider community. As St. Paul says in the epistle today, we come to do this for others “in fear and trembling.”
Isaiah tells us in the first reading today that as the people of God we are to pour ourselves out for the afflicted, our light must shine as a ray of God’s mercy for all who are poor, hungry, naked, or enslaved.
In order to reach others with the Gospel there must be a transparent quality to our lives. Our friends and family, our neighbours and fellow citizens, need to see reflected in us the light of Christ and through us be attracted to the saving truths, the salt of the Gospel, the Cross of Christ. The gift of faith leads us to the city on the hill, the New Jerusalem.
So let us pray that we, as St. Paul says, might proclaim with our whole lives, “Christ and him crucified.”
“You are the light of the world, a city built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Thanks be to God.