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Monday, 6 February 2017

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany - A Homily

February 5, 2017  St. Thomas More, Toronto

“I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will have the light of life.”

Have you noticed how the tiniest ray of light can allow us to see in the darkness? Physical light is a necessity. We cannot move in safety without it. The same is true of spiritual light. A soul in darkness cannot survive no matter how bright the sun is. In God that we live and move and have our being, St. Paul affirms, and through God’s wisdom we become a “demonstration of Spirit and power” as St. Paul goes on to assure us in the second reading.

Jesus declares to our world of darkness: “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will have the light of life.”  Through him the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled.  Like Isaiah, Jesus shows us that in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and oppressed, clothing the naked, and helping the afflicted we allow God’s light to shine. It is through such corporal works of mercy that his followers become prisms of light to the world. A prism refracts light so that we may see the many colours and splendor of light.

Last week we heard the great summary of the Gospel, the beatitudes proclaimed at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes constitute the inner spiritual logic of God’s life at work in the human soul, orienting our hearts toward the kingdom of heaven instead of the empire of self. We travel towards God’s kingdom in poverty of spirit and meekness, trusting in God’s love and justice for all, accomplished in mercy. This grace, the light of God, produces a purity of heart and vison –  peace so that even in the midst of persecution, we can offer a blessing instead of a curse to our persecutors. This path of beatitude is our participation in divine light, by which the darkness of sin, self and death in our world can be conquered by the light of love.

Having offered the apostles the beatitudes, Jesus instructs them concerning how the principles, grounded in Judeo-Christian culture can be lived.  We hear much talk of rights these days, but there are no rights that are not grounded in the principles built upon a culture of  light and love, a culture of responsibility and choice for the other rather than the self.  We will hear more about that in coming weeks, but in today’s Gospel Jesus uses two metaphors—salt and light—to describe what his teaching means for his disciples.

In the ancient world salt was a critical preservative: dressed with salt, meat was less susceptible to corruption. It gives flavour to foods, it is an essential electrolyte that keeps our hearts beating regularly. The Christian is like salt to the world because by our witness charity is preserved, life is expressed in joy and the energy of God’s grace flows to the heart of a fallen world, breaching the walls of the empire of self.

Each Christian is called to let the “light of the world” shine, dispelling darkness, living in charity even with our persecutors. This source of this light is divine grace that becomes visible to others in our words, in gracious acts, in our personal refusal to resort to “oppression, false accusation or malicious speech.” And so, as Isaiah promised, the gloom of sin and death shall be overcome; justice and mercy will be a light shining through the darkness, a gleaming city on a hill.

“I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will have the light of life.”

IS 58:7-10;    PS 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9;1    COR 2:1-5;    MT 5:13-16.

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