Our readings this Sunday focus on the first act of God’s creation: Light. But not just any light, the light that we are called to be as followers of the Lord Jesus. The first reading speaks of the light that will be given to us as a result of us being obedient to His will, especially that ever-merciful dimension of His will that calls us to help those in need. That call is not a minor thing; in fact the specifics that Isaiah mentions in that reading, e.g. feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, will be specifically cited by the Lord Jesus in His great parable of the Last Judgement. Those will be admitted into Paradise who fed Him when He was hungry, clothed Him when He was naked, etc. If we respond to His transforming love in our lives and lay them down in the service of the Kingdom, especially the service to those in need, light will shine for us here and now and eternal light will shine on us forever! Then when we cry for help, He will hear and answer. This reminds us of last Sunday’s Gospel: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Where do we receive the power to do this? Paul alludes to the answer in the second reading when he notes that what he said and did came not from his own strength, but rather from the Spirit, from the power of God. It should be remembered that one of the early Church’s great endeavors was to undertake a collection for the Christians in Jerusalem who were in great need. This endeavor was begun by a word of prophecy and was carried on by the disciples yielding to the grace of the Spirit.
The Spirit, as Acts and other New Testament writings constantly affirm, was the driving force behind all the actions of the early Church. Whether proclaiming the Word with signs and wonders or serving the needs of the poor, the disciples found the strength and guidance for their actions through the Spirit they had been given—the same Spirit we have all received.
The consequence of having received the Spirit is illustrated by a series of statements in the Gospel that are meant to drive home the point that if we have said “yes” to the invitation to follow the Lord Jesus and yielded to the power of His Holy Spirit, not being a witness is not an option: we cannot be ‘unsalty’ salt! The image of a city set on a hill would be a prime image for all the citizens of Jerusalem. Their capital city was set on a hill, and on the highest hill of the city was the Temple itself, crowned with gold, which would have been a blazing beacon for all and visible for miles around. The Lord Jesus knew the disciples would immediately think of this image when He thus taught them that even as such a city could not be hidden, so too their witness to Him must remain as visible. He then also gives them a warning image. If you put a lamp under a bushel, one of two things will happen. Either the lamp will be extinguished, losing its light, losing its witness; or, the lamp will set the bushel on fire, causing, albeit inadvertently, an even greater witness!
There is a certain kind of danger, however, in thinking that how we exercise this call on our lives to be a witness is all up to us, we have to figure it all out, we have to do it all, on our own. He gently reminds us that without Him we can do nothing, and we must rely on that still, small voice of the Spirit to guide us as we prudently seek to carry out His will. As we continue to seek His will in fervent prayer and study, the King Himself will gently guide us on His path! — Fr. Ed