The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 5:14-19
We have heard these blessed words of Our Lord Jesus many many times “You are the light of the world.” What did Our Lord mean by those words? Was He attempting to be poetic? Was He teaching something that we would today call practical? Hardly.
We should remember that this passage is near the beginning of the famous sermon on the mount. It was a sermon or teaching delivered not to pagans, or to Christians, but to the Jewish people. He tells them that as a group, as a people, they are to be the light of the world. From the Biblical perspective until that point in time, no other earthly tribe had known the one true God. Most of the peoples of the world were still unenlightened, they worshiped many many gods and they even carved images of these gods such as birds and cows and bulls and then prayed to them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the new Moses who teaches or reteaches the people of Israel, the people of God. He reminds them that it is no small thing to be a Jew. St. Paul in Romans 3 reminds the Jews of the advantage of the Jew over the gentile when he says that the Jews were “entrusted with the oracles of God” (the divine teachings). So a Jew, like a Christian must be a light to the world. As the people of God it is not enough to say that we know the King, we are expected to act like children of the King not out of a sense of duty, but because knowing God has to have that visible effect on our life. It is said that instead of cursing the darkness one should light a match. But here Our Lord goes one step further and tells us to become the light itself. We complain about society and what we see happening around us but what do we do about it? In response to an editorial where the author asked “What’s wrong with the world?” The noted Atheist turned Christian author C.S. Lewis responded in this way. “Dear Author: In response to your article “What’s wrong with the world?” I am. He took the blame and so should we.
Think about it, is there any greater witness of Jesus Christ and His life transforming power than people like you and I who act differently than society expects? Is there any greater witness than people like you and I, who love our enemies and do good to those who curse and use us? These are the signs that Our God is alive and fills us with love.
We are called to be light because we have received the Holy Spirit who is light. Often times though, we keep this light hidden, bottled up. Perhaps we are waiting for the right time to show that light? Perhaps we are afraid that if people see this light they will find us strange, or weird? I have no doubt that they might, but a funny thing happens sometimes… Such a person has the effect of drawing people like moths to a flame. Everybody wants what that person has, they are drawn to him or her not only because of their strength of character and integrity….there is something about them that is almost otherworldly and that is because those who have a living active faith in Jesus Christ have peace and joy and warmth. Sure they also have struggles, disappointments, and failures. Sure they also sin and sometimes look very human….but it also looks like they are growing into children of God. And in a day and age when those things are at a minimum we are truly needed by the world around us even if the world doesn’t realize it.
Our God pours out His love in the the person of His Son and in the Holy Spirit and tells us to be thankful about what we’ve been given and to use it to guide others who have never really known truth, light and goodness. So many people have never encountered real love.
What separates Christians from everyone else is not some rigid system of morals or discipline, As an aside I want you to know that when you see Orthodox that treat life like a funeral you should beware. God has not called us to be part of a funeral but to have the joy that is fit for a wedding because Christ has united the heavens and the earth and because the Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. Where legalism is at work you see the funeral type atmosphere but we are bound by the spirit and not the letter of the law. We have some of those formal and disciplined aspects it is true, but what separates us is our unfailing love for each and every person we encounter, whether we like them or not, whether we agree with them or not. As Our Lord reminds us “They will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” In our time when so many people are blind to God, the Lord Jesus tells us to be light….to show people a way out of that maze of darkness and into the arms of the heavenly Father. And we can only do this by loving others as Christ loves us and by teaching others about the source of our love.
That is the kind of light that you see on a mountain top…..that you cannot ignore if you try!
May God give us this light and help us to share it with all.
Originally preached July 17, 2011