Scripture readings: Isaiah 58:7-10; First Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16
Listening to the scripture lessons for this Sunday, we hear a message that is clearly about being concerned, as followers of Jesus, for the good of others. In our day and age, when money can almost literally move mountains, we may get the false impression and even be trapped into thinking that as long as people have some or a lot of money, they are really set, and should not be concerned with much else. Food, shelter and clothing are the basics, and if those are available, what else is needed? What good can we do for others, we might ask, once they have enough to eat, a roof over their heads and enough to wear? Isn’t that sufficient?
Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth for a follower of Jesus. The sick and imprisoned need to be visited; orphans seek the warmth of a family, the elderly thrive on friendship and care that transcends any material goods. These are just a few examples of the fact that, as the song put it, “money can’t buy me love.”
Our call and obligation from God to serve others flows from our baptismal commitment. By our Baptism we “put on Christ,” as Saint Paul beautifully expresses it, and as a result of our baptism we form one family of believers, children of the One God. We are part of a single body, the Church, with Christ as the head of the body, of which we are all members. This is a great privilege and dignity as baptized Christians.
Light is the key word in the Isaiah and Matthew, in the Sacred Scripture readings for Mass this Sunday. The basic question being asked of all who follow Christ is simply this: are we light for others or are we darkness? Hopefully we want to be light, and paradoxically we get our light from participation in the cross of Christ, in whom we find our salvation, our life and our resurrection. It is through Jesus Christ that we are saved and made free (see Galatians 6:14).
The light we carry within ourselves, our life in Christ, is supposed to attract others to our origin of hope and life, Jesus Christ. The best way we can give light, as described in the Scripture readings today, is by our concern and care for others. Love and compassion toward those in our family, our parish, our school, our place of work, our religious community, on our city streets, is the greatest test of our truly belonging to Christ.
We may be people of prayer and church-goers, even daily communicants, but if we treat others, our loved ones or strangers, with contempt or ignore their needs, then we have missed the point of what it means to follow Christ.
The Lord is calling us every day to care for others, through practical concern and assistance. Few of us are called to go off to missionary lands to proclaim the Gospel, as wonderful a vocation as that is, but all of us are to show Gospel-based love by the way we treat others who are already in our lives or who enter our lives regularly or unexpectedly.
That may not be as glamorous or appealing as doing missionary work in India, China or Mexico, as valuable as that is, but what we do right here and now makes all the difference in the world for the building up of God’s Kingdom, something we are all called to do.
Jesus says we are called to be light and salt in the world. Both light and salt are images of something that is productive and useful, means of assisting others to develop and experience God’s love. We are expected by our belonging to Christ to “help carry one another’s burdens,” as Saint Paul says. When we are light and salt for others, we enable the best in them to come forth. When we do good for others, this in turns allows them to do and be good as well.
We can all recognize that the world always needs more light and salt. Jesus tells us that our light must shine before others, who can see goodness in what we do and thereby give praise to the God who made us all.
May we be willing instruments in Christ’s Church today and every day, not just on Sundays. By our doing this we will truly form families, parishes, schools, workplaces and religious communities, that live in peace and glorify God in all that they do.
Saint Benedict, the great founder of the Benedictine Order, expressed it this way: “That in all things God may be glorified,”(in Latin: Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus). It is a phrase from the First Letter of Saint Peter, chapter 4, verse 11, and restates the primacy of the spiritual order in the monastery. The business of a monastery is to glorify God, but really it is the work of all, monk or not.
Here is a motto worthy of all, that truly in all things God may be glorified, today and always.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB