[Homily. 2.8-9.2020. Assumption Chapel]
Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation. We recalled how Joseph and Mary, obedient to the law, brought their firstborn child to the temple to be presented to the Lord. But in entering the temple they encountered the holy man, Simeon, who had been promised he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Upon seeing the child Jesus he took him in his arms and blessed God saying, “Now Master you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for the revelation of the Gentiles” (Lk 2:29-32). Simeon’s recognition of Jesus as the light becomes a leitmotif of the celebration of the Presentation. That is why we began that celebration with a procession of candles. The priest blessed these candles, saying, “God our Father, source of all light, today you revealed to Simeon your Light of revelation to all the nations. … May we who carry them come to the Light of salvation.” May we who carry them come to Jesus, the Light. The Feast of the Presentation is the way the Church finally closes the Christmas season; Jesus enters our world as the Light. We recall the beautiful passage from Isaiah read on Christmas Eve, “The dawn [the Light} from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:78-79).
As the ordinary time has already begun, we have been contemplating Jesus preaching, healing and liberating people from darkness and demons within. We have seen how Jesus shared his work with others, with people like you and me. In Mark’s account of the calling of the apostles, which we considered recently in our liturgy, Jesus “called to himself those whom he wanted. And they came to him” (Mk 3:13). He said, “Follow me” (Mk 1:17), and they left their nets or their tax collecting and followed him. He said, “Follow me.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6) “I am the gate” (Jn 10:9). “I come to bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10). “I am the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11). And they followed him. After his baptism, when the heavens opened, the Father introduced him as his beloved Son. Then, during the Transfiguration, when the heavenly light shone through his humanity, the Father again said, “This is my beloved Son whom I have chosen. Listen to him” (Lk 9:35). Conquering the darkness, overcoming sin and death through his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus is the Light. It is this light that rescues us from the shadow of death. Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, we are baptized into this light. Called to him, following him, we are called to carry this light into our world.
It is in this context that Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14). Having been called to himself, having been invited to follow him, having been baptized into his death and resurrection, he says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand where it gives light to all in the house. Just so your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt. 5:14-15).
How then are you as followers of Christ to be light in this world? Jesus says, “Love one another. Love one another as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples” (Jn. 13:34-35). By this shall you be light in a love-starved world. How else? Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Visit the imprisoned. “For whatever you do – or not do – to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you do – or not do – to me” (Mt. 25: 40.45). By acting in God’s love and compassion, you are light. How else? We can heed the words of the prophet Isaiah in our first reading. “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn….” (Is 58: 7-8a). Isaiah says further: “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, the light shall rise from you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (Is 58: 10). How else? Perhaps, be a little less proud, and a little more humble. Be a little less domineering, and a little more serving. Remember Jesus: “Jesus, knowing the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside his garments, took a towel and girded himself. After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded” (Jn 13:3-5). Later he said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:13-14).
To let your light shine as a city on a mountaintop, “In your relationships with one another,” Paul says to the Philippians, “have the same mindset as Jesus Christ who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:5-11).
You are the light of the world. Come to Jesus. Follow Jesus. Have the same mindset as Jesus. And shine.