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Pastor's Letter 20200209 - 09 February 2020 - Our Christian Identity

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February 9, 2020

Fifth Sunday-Ordinary Time

Today’s Theme:


“Our Christian Identity”


Scripture Note

In the Liturgy for the Third Sunday-Ordinary Time, we were introduced to Jesus as “the Light of the World” (Matthew 4:12-23.)  Today, our Gospel Reading relates Christ’s function of enlightening and guiding a morally confused humanity (Matthew 5:13-16.)

 In the ancient world, as is so today, salt was one of the most important necessities of life, particularly for preserving and seasoning food.  So too was the importance of light, for obvious reasons.  We shouldn’t turn “salt” and “light” into allegories.  They are simply images.  Both of them make the same point, however: Jesus’ disciples have a vital role to play in the world by virtue of their good deeds.  When disciples stop witnessing through their endeavors, they become as useless as salt that has lost its taste, or a lamp that doesn’t give light.

Salt of the Earth; Light of the World

At this point some of our evangelical brethren might feel their hackles rising, concerning the “faith vs. works” debate. This stems from, perhaps, religious teaching concerning the doctrines: Sola Scriptura, Sola fide and Sola gratiae. It’s no secret that abuses were legion in the 16thcentury Church, as concerns indulgences—merits(for the amelioration of temporal punishment for sin,)which could be gained by performing specific tasks, or donating sums of money on behalf of Church projects.  (Condemnation of these practices was part and parcel of Martin Luther’s infamous ’95 Treatises.) The subject for discussion here, however, is "good deeds" that spring from efforts of faithful Christians on behalf of those in need, and which serve as examples of faith—which precedes them. Jesus knew when religious practice is divorced from life, a vital element is missing—like salt that has lost its taste, or a lamp that no longer gives light.  But when it leads to good deeds, a very effective witnessis given.  

 This story from the life of Mother Teresa might serve to illustrate this:

One day a man visited Mother Teresa’s home for the poor and dying in Calcutta.  Arriving just as the Sisters were bringing some of the dying from the streets, he saw a man picked from the gutter, covered with dirt and sores.  Without knowing she was being watched, one of the Sisters began to care for him. Meanwhile the visitor watching her noticed how tenderly the nun worked and cared for her patient—washing him and smiling, not missing a single detail in caring for the dying man.

Turning to Mother Teresa he said, “When I came here today I didn’t believe in God, and my heart was full of hate.  But now I am leaving believing in God.  But now I have seen the love of God in action, through the hands of that Sister—through her tenderness, her gestures and her love for that wretched man.  I have seen God’s love descend upon him, and now I believe.”  

 This surely is an example of what Jesus had in mind.  When He tells us we must “let our light shine,” the light is our good deeds, especially our deeds of love. People take notice of our good deeds, but usually, they will be much simpler, much more ordinary--not as remarkable as the one in this example.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t give effective witness to the light. 

 When Jesus tells us to “let our light shine before all,” He doesn’t mean we should advertise our good deeds, much less “crow” about them.  He is asking us to do them; and they will speak for themselves.  A good life is a strong and effective witness in and of itself, because it is a proclamation of the Gospel.  The light will shine when one is a genuine person; when one sees that the truth is told and justice is done; when one exercises mercy and shows compassion and love.  

In order to produce its effect, salt must be mixed with food.  And a light has to be put in a high place in order to reach the widest area. As Christians we are “in the world,” but we must not allow ourselves to be absorbed “by the world.”   As Christians, then,  we have a very positive role to play.  We have something to offer; something the world desperately needs, even though it may not always be welcomed.  We should not be shy or apologetic about our role. A judicious amount of boldness and courage are required.  This task is not only for the individual Christian, but for the whole Christian community.  It is easier—and more effective—to witness to Christ as a member of a supportive community.

Let Your Light Shine

We are not called to leave our place in the community in a rush to get involved in a whirlwind of good works.  Rather, we are encouraged to practice our Christianity, not just in church, but “out in the world,” in whatever situation we happen to find ourselves--all the more so, by reason of our position in society, if we happen to be situated on some “hilltop” where all can see us, and where people look to us for light.  Consider these examples:

As a teacher, I am expected to teach well, and refrain from showing favoritism.  If I do not, I may bring light to some, and darkness to others. If a Christian teacher shows any kind of favoritism, it should be towards those who find learning difficult.

As a judge, justice is expected from me.  Justice is the “salt” of society.  Solzhenitsyn once said, “A corrupt judge is worse than highway robbery.”  A good judge causes the light of justice to shine on everyone.

A good politician can bring light into people’s lives.  As a politician, people expect me to work for the good of my constituency, and not for myself.  

A good doctor should treat all patients alike, regardless of their station in life.  In doing so, they bring the light of healing to many.

If I am a police officer, people expect me to uphold and enforce the law impartially—never trying to bend or break it.

Employers must pay fair wages and create working environments in which employees can be productive, thrive and know their contributions are valued.

In turn, workers must know and do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Journalists must deal in facts—not half-truths and likes. They must strive to present balanced reporting and eschew trivialities and sensationalism.  Good reporters can shine light of truth into many dark corners of the world.

Business peoplewill find they are spreading light by offering equitable goods and services to the public at fair prices. Shriving to provide value to customers is not just the surest way to success, but affords opportunities for reasonable competition.

As a parent, I am charged with bringing the light of caring, wisdom and guidance into the lives of my children.  I know I must put their welfare above my own—and above my personal career ambitions.

As a member of the clergy, I must strive to be a beacon of righteousness within the community. My life must reflect the principles that I preach, and I must make myself available to anyone who seeks my counsel, without restriction.

 One could multiply the examples and still not cover every situation.  Each of us must ask ourselves how we can best practice our Christianity within our individual spheres of influence.  We must determine how we can be the “salt,” and “light” for people we meet every day, in the ordinary, routine occasions of life. We may not always be a “beacon,” but we can at least be a humble “candle,” shedding light in its own immediate vicinity.  There is a tendency to take big matters seriously and neglect small ones.  Therein is where corruption begins—where the “light goes out,” and the “salt” loses its savor.  There is only one remedy: We must set aside time for the big things while also taking the small things seriously—as we turn our attention to the tasks of the moment. 

The Gospel is basically about “goodness.”  But “goodness” can’t be “put on.”  The good deeds I do must be an expression of my faith and of the kind of person I am.  The authenticity of our lives is the best Christian witness we can give.    

May God Richly Bless You!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  (Ephesians 4:2)


Let Your Light Shine.docx

Let Your Light Shine.mp3


Edited by Father Michael
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