The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 5:14-19
Today we hear from the Lord Jesus teaching the people during His famous sermon on the mount, the greatest sermon ever preached. The Lord tells the multitude and by extension also tells us these lovely words “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”
The Lord Jesus isn’t trying to be poetic or philosophical here. He is trying to teach us something very important. He is telling us that the world that does not know Him is in a kind of darkness and that it is in desperate need of light, that it is in need of each of us. In our current culture there is a real hesitation on our part to ever speak of religion in any public place or even amongst our own friends. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time in this country and in others, were people could speak freely and engage in the exchange of ideas. What has happened especially over the last 50 years has been a cultural revolution that we call secularism. If you want to learn more about secularism and how it was actually an outcome of the protestant reformation I recommend reading “Everywhere present: Christianity in a one storey universe”.
Secularism for our sakes is the idea that religion is ok if you only practice it at home and away from everyone else. It would have us believe that religion has no place in public life but what is that really saying? What we’re saying is that God is not in charge of your life the moment you step outside your front door. For any Christian this belief is actually anti-Christian. See, God is sovereign over the whole universe and there is no place that we can go where He is not our master and our Lord. There is no place where I am no longer bound by the command to preach the gospel.
Now some of you might be saying “but what about the separation of Church and state?” That’s a good question, and we have to remember that the separation of Church and state was not created to eliminate God from all public discussions and discourse. Actually the phrase separation of Church and state doesn’t even exist in the Constitution. What exists is called the establishment clause. The clause says that Congress shall make no laws either for or against a particular church or denomination. This was done to prevent congress passing laws that would specifically benefit one group such as Episcopalians or Methodists. It was never meant to exclude God from all public ways of life. This exclusion of God from the public square has damaged this city and this country in countless ways.
The world needs Jesus Christ and His teachings. This country needs Jesus Christ. Utica needs Jesus Christ. They need Jesus Christ who is the light but they can’t find their way out of the darkness because you and I are hiding our light under baskets. What is the point of having light if we hide it and keep it from shining? When we are baptized as Christians we are called newly illumined! That means we receive light from God! We come out of darkness and into a relationship filled with light.
A priest is not meant to bring this light to everyone he meets on the street, neither is a professor of theology or a bishop. This duty is for each of us. The Lord says “You are the light of the world!” What an amazing honor and gift God has given us. He hasn’t been selfish and horded the light all for Himself and for His own glory….He has given us this light and made us His glory! Don’t be afraid to mention the God whom you love and whom you serve. Don’t be afraid to correct people when they speak about things that are wrong and harmful for their lives. We are under the impression that everything is okay as long as it is done in private but that simply isn’t true according to Jesus Christ. Everything is only okay when we love God and obey His commandments. Everything is okay only when we are not hiding our faith. When we are taking seriously our vows to be Christians….to be salt and light to the world around us.
This doesn’t mean that we should be jerks who carry a Bible and condemn others at every turn….far from it. God calls us to be light and not poison. He calls us to love one another and not hurt one another. He calls each of us to bring the light of Jesus Christ to our little corner of the world by starting with teaching our families, praying with them and bringing them up in a godly way. Then taking the message to our neighbors and co-workers and offering them the special gifts that God has given to us freely. It is said that some curse the darkness while others light a candle. We curse the darkness and hide ourselves even though we are the cure to the darkness. Jesus Christ is not present in body with us….St. Paul tells us that the Church is His body! When people see us, they should see Him. That is why St. Paul writes “It is no longer I who live but Christ in me.” Let’s each accept the challenge offered by the Lord this week and let’s see if we can’t help remove just a bit of the darkness that is slowly growing around us….and Glory be to God forever. AMEN.