Sunday, February 5, 2017

Homliy For Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah has been sent by God to the people of Judah to remind them of the call they were to have  as a nation. They were not given a land and heritage for their own sake, but they were to a be a light to the nations; a way that the nations would see the glory of God and be drawn to the glory of God.  However, that light was dimming quickly.  It wasn't because the people of Judah had abandoned the Temple.  The prayers and sacrifices were still going on.  However, these same people would then go into the valley of Hinnom and make prayers and sacrifices to the idols and gods of other nations. Furthermore, they were taking on the morals of the other nations as well.  The law of Moses, part of the covenant God made with Israel, demanded they take care of their needy and poor.  However, the people had grown negligent and abusive to to those in need.  God tells them to be just, to attend to those in need, to remove the corruption they had embraced, and so live up the call of being a light to the nations.

In the Gospel, we see the same call.  Notice Jesus says " You are the salt of the earth," and "you are the light of the world."  Not 'you should be' or 'you will' or 'it would be nice if'...but you are.  As the people of Israel were called to be a light to the nations, moreso now the disciples were called to be.  To them was given the light of truth with the full expectation that they keep that light alive.  When we were baptized, a lit candle was given to us or our parents or godparents with an instruction: Receive the light of Christ.  We were given a guardianship of a portion of the light of Christ so that as a member of the Church Militant, we might become a light by which others, as Jesus says, may see the good works you do and give glory to God."  Parents, you were given the responsibility to train your children to live in the light.  As we grow, we are expected to be a caretaker and witness to the light, not merely for our own good, but so that others may see that light and be drawn to it themselves.

It is possible to lose that light though, to become the salt that loses its flavor.  Many years ago I watched the movie, Becket, and a particular scene burned itself into my brain.  One of the king's nobles had kidnapped and murdered a priest.  He was unrepentant.  In the scene, St Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury processes into Canterbury Cathedral with his monks, each carrying a large lit candle.    After the charges meriting excommunication were announced and the excommunication announced, the candles were turned upside down, the light snuffed out as it crashed to the floor.  The light that was given that noble was now snuffed out.  Truth be told, all mortal sin has the same effect on our lives.  When we choose the darkness of sin over the truth of the light of Christ, we extinguish that flame and plunge our souls into darkness.  If we choose to do this, we cannot expect to live in darkness but enjoy the benefits of the light.

Jesus asks what is to be done with salt that loses it flavor.  It is cast out.  No human can restore it.  Remember though, the creator of the salt has the ability to restore the flavor.  By the same token the one who extended the light to us can extend it again; only He can relight the light snuffed out.  As Catholics, we believe that one in a state of mortal sin cannot receive the fruit of the light: the grace of the sacraments until one has addressed that darkness and repents of it.  In the Catholic Church, the sacrament of Reconciliation  is the means of the grace necessary to have one's light relighted.  Once, relighted, one has the benefits of the light. Like the unwise virgins in the parable of the 10 virgins, we do not want to found with unlit candles when Christ comes again.

This light is important not only for ourselves, but because we are supposed to a light to the nations.  We need to learn from the mistakes of Israel that we cannot embrace the darkness of the world and still be a light to the world.  The Church is evangelical by her nature.  When we were baptized, we were baptized into a mission, a mission that requires the light of Christ.  We are light in the darkness to draw people out of darkness, no matter how deep that darkness be.  I remember several years back a young man and his friend came in for financial help from our St Clement Cares fund.  We got to talking about faith.  He asked me, "Father, do you think your church wouldn't want a person like as a member?"  He then pulled up his sleeve and exposed a rather heinous looking tattoo.  He told me it was a rash choice made when he was younger that he regretted.  I told him that I would like to believe that my parish would be able to look beyond this scar and see the repentant prodigal son who wanted to come home.  I don't know what happened to him.  But we left the door open, a door open to this day.

To be a light to the nations requires an openness to allowing repentance from those who dwelt in deep darkness.  We don't condone the sins, but we don't turn away the repentant either.  We are not a country club or fraternity looking for the right people who look like us.  No, we invite people into the truth.  To do that means we must embrace nothing of darkness.  We must give no quarter for darkness in our lives.  We must expel any compromise with the darkness of the world so that we might live up to the call to be the light of the world.  We cannot be a light by adopting the darkness, no, we can only be that light by embracing and fueling through our cooperation with God's grace that light of Christ given to us.

Let that light of Christ shine so that others may see that light and be drawn to the source of that light, Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Such symbolism in this years readings about light! The scene you describe from Becket is frightening to imagine. May we never be so aggregious as to snuff out our own light.