Our readings today embody the core of the Gospel message, in fact, the core of the written record of the Bible and our Tradition as Catholics and Christians. The Son of God became one with us in our humanity so that we can become one with him in his divinity. Jesus is the incarnation of the Son of God, he is God made man so that through our participation in his life we can become like God, we can be restored to the likeness of God that we were originally created to be and that has been lost to us through our sin.
Ultimately, what is Jesus saying to his disciples then and to us his disciples today when he said, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world”? Jesus is saying that we are called by him to be holy, we are to be deified or divinized. Our image is to become transformed, perfected in and by Christ and through the Holy Spirit our likeness, the glory of God will be returned.
We are a living, craving, hunger, and desire to be one with God and each other. This is true for the atheist as well as the mystic. God did not create us just to survive and merely exist, to take up space and then die. He created us to be fully alive, to be loved and to love, and to collaborate with him to bring about his reign on earth as it is in heaven. Yet, we all fall short of the glory of God when we sin.
Jesus came to save us and opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.God loved us into existence and loves us so much he is willing to risk that we will reject him. He wants us to choose him freely. Jesus shines the light in our darkness to reveal to us those ways in which we have said no to God and invites us to repent, to turn away from our sin and to restore our relationship with our loving God and Father.
Our yes to God is not a one time yes for all time. We need to make a daily, moment by moment yes to God in every aspect of our life. God loves us more than our worst mistakes, our greatest sin, more than we can ever mess up. He is just waiting for us to turn to him, so he can forgive us and release us from our bondage. God loves us so that we can receive his love, return to communion with him, and love others as he has loved us.
Jesus calls us to be salt, to preserve that which is good and holy in God’s creation. That means we need to be growing in holiness. Jesus calls us to be the light that shines in the darkness leading people to experience that which is good, true, and beautiful about being a human being fully alive. That means we need to be cleansed of our sin so that the light of Christ can shine through us to others.
On our own merits and efforts, this is impossible, but in union with Jesus all things are possible. We become holy by following the guidance of the psalmist. Our hearts are to be firm and steadfast as we trust in the Lord (cf Psalm 112: 8-9) and along with St. Paul we need to believe that we “rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (I Cor. 2:5). As we are more and more conformed to the life of Jesus, people no longer see us, but Jesus working through us. As we mature in our walk with Jesus we too will be able to say with Saint Paul that I have been crucified with Christ, yet it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (cf. Galatian 2:19-20).
We become salt to the earth and a light to the world, we become holy, when we accept the reality that God is God and we are not. When we willingly and with firm intent say yes to the grace, the free gift, of the invitation of Jesus. When we pray, meditate, and are willing to be led into contemplation by the Holy Spirit. When we slow down on a daily basis to hear the Word of God who speaks to us in the silence of our hearts and allow the love of the Holy Spirit to transform us, to purge from us all within us that is not of God.
Yet, our prayer is not for us alone. Prayer, meditation, and contemplation are where we become aware of the invitation to experience God vertically, where he calls us through the love of the Holy Spirit and sends us out on mission. This outward action directed toward others is our relationship with God horizontally. The two directions, vertical and horizontal, intersect as the trinitarian love of the Cross.
When we become people of prayer, allow our eyes to see the needs of our neighbor, and allow our hearts to feel again, we will hear with the prophet 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” (Isaiah 58:7). We will also hear Jesus say, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-36).
These words are not easy to hear nor to put into practice, but the Word of God is the kindling we need to ignite the embers of our soul. Our “light will shine before others” (Mt 5:16) when we ponder these words and are willing to allow the Fire of the Holy Spirit to burn the dross of our sin, pride, and selfishness from within, and allow ourselves to be ablaze by the Love of God. When we allow Jesus to live in and through us we will no longer be shaped by the world, but we will set the world on fire with his love.
We become “the light of the world” (Mt 5:14) when we have the moral courage as a Democrat to stand up for the dignity of the unborn and as a Republican to grant safe and humane passage to our neighbors outside our borders seeking refuge. We are the light of the world when we no longer allow our politics to shape the Gospel but when we allow the Gospel to shape our politics. We are the light of the world when we recognize that what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters in each and every encounter, we are doing to Jesus.
Be not afraid of this present age. Be the light of Christ that shines in the darkness.
Photo: Praying in the St Peter chapel yesterday before 8 am Saturday Mass.