Sunday, February 09, 2014


Mt 5:15-20

I remember how struck I was when I first read The Diary of Anne Frank, which has become a literary classic.  As you probably know, it is the published diary of a young Jewish woman who was in hiding in Amsterdam, with her family, during the Second World War.  The family was unfortunately betrayed to the Nazis, and most of the family was then killed in the Nazi death camps.

Anne Frank’s diary and life has become a shining light to the world.  Obviously, she did not intend it to be that, but it has become that.  Why was that?  I suppose for reasons like these: In adverse circumstances, she was an individual who took her experiences and her feelings seriously enough to write them down, and that she expressed herself very well.  Against the backdrop of the dark powers of evil, Anne’s innocence and vitality has become an inspiration to others.

My theme today is Jesus’ words in our gospel reading, “Let your light shine”.

Immediately before this, Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.”   The word ‘salt’ was already used in Jewish circles to refer to wisdom.  We can see the wisdom tradition in writings like the Psalms, the Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes; or even the Beatitudes, a reading like the one we have today, and indeed the whole of the Sermon on the Mount.

These wisdom writings are different from writings which told the story or history of individuals or the nation.   Rather, wisdom writings show us the emotions, reflections, and philosophical conclusions of people who have gone before about God, and about human nature.

The wisdom writings often use poetic language.  This combination of wisdom and beauty of writing makes people want to learn the wisdom writings by heart.  Such writings have been prized by others for their truth and their goodness – for their wisdom.  The rabbis then would have said that person who “reads, marks, learns, and inwardly digests” such works gains wisdom.  Such a person becomes “the salt of the earth.”

But what Jesus said went further than this – not only are we the salt of the earth and the light of the world, but Jesus went further to say, “Let your light shine.”   In Isa 58:1-12, light is God’s presence with us in response to sincere prayer.

That is, as we reflect on God’s word, internalize it, and follow it, not only does our life glow with joy, an inner trust in God’s presence, and with meaning, but we are urged to let others know about it.  I suppose you could say that it is not so much to tell them or to make them follow your example; rather, it is to inspire them to realize where the light comes from that is in your life.

We may not be a marvelous success, like the gold medalists of the Olympics this week.  We may even suffer or experience tragedy.  Whatever our story, experiences, and feelings, the readings today encourage us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the nourishment and the light of God’s word.  This gospel encourages us to take even the small details of our daily life as a valuable gift of God; and radiating gratitude, to share the light and the joy of that approach with those we engage each day.

We can all think of people who have been inspiring examples in our lives, and how glad we are to know them.  Our lives and words and attitudes may be the only bible that others read; a channel of God’s light to other people.

Let your light shine that they may see your good works and worship God in heaven.

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