Sara Ann Conneely
Putting in the Work
For a short Gospel reading, we have quite a few metaphors explaining who we are meant to be as disciples of Christ. Salt, a city on a mountain, a light - each of these examples tell me that as a disciple of Jesus, others see my actions. We are the light of the world, amplifying the light of Christ. We all know the children’s song that comes from this story. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Hide it under a bushel - NO! I’m gonna let it shine.” Though the words are simple and cutesy, the message remains timeless. The joy, consolation, hope, comfort, strength, love, compassion we receive from our faith in God is meant to be shared. It is meant to guide others, illuminating the darkness in our world. We are that light, brightening an otherwise dreary reality. Without this light, how can others see the goodness that God has granted?
These metaphors express the necessity for action. Season, ignite, exude - what salt, light, and a city on a mountain do. We are meant to season, ignite, and exude as well. Being Christian in name alone does not accomplish the mission set forth for us by Jesus. This Gospel from Matthew chapter 5 follows Jesus proclaiming the Beatitudes and makes up the first part of the Sermon on the Mount, a lengthy lecture reimagining Hebrew law for the conditions of first century Palestine. Action is the focus - Jesus is contextualizing the Law that called for putting in the effort to stay on track. The works necessitated by the Gospel message provide a starting point for others to begin to recognize what it means to be a follower of Christ. Another hymn comes to mind, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” I feel the light shared with us by God is God’s love for us, and we are called to publicize the reality of this love.
The first reading for today from the prophet Isaiah has a similar theme; we think of the corporal works of mercy when we hear, “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them” (Isaiah 58:7). Each of these appeals actively aid the vulnerable and marginalized. They serve to right the immediate injustice of lacking what is necessary for human flourishing. When we fulfill the needs of the hungry, the oppressed, and the naked, we are acting as a light in the darkness - both the darkness of the world and the darkness of hunger, oppression, and nakedness. We do not shed light on our acts of kindness and mercy in order to draw attention to ourselves; in fact, they lose a bit of their integrity when done with the spotlight in mind. Rather, the light we bring to the darkness of loneliness, poverty, and despair is for those served.
To pass along Christ’s light we must not boast about the good deeds we do so that others see we are performing good deeds. We must do the right thing, act in this positive way, to reinforce our role as followers of Christ. As we believe St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”