ABBOT JOHN EUDES: HOMEPAGEg_smseal.gif (1417 bytes)

 FEBRUARY 10, 2002 HOMILY: 1COR. 2:1-5; MATTHEW 5:13-16 

YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. . . .YOUR LIGHT MUST SHINE BEFORE MEN. . . THAT THEY MIGHT GIVE PRAISE TO YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER. Jesus, in his very person, introduced a new and unique tension in human life at all levels of our existence. xtinglory.gif (92339 bytes)His teaching and preaching as well as his actions repeatedly manifest the fact that while human nature has its legitimate needs they are not the final arbiter of happiness and fulfillment. There is a divine destiny set for all persons and in the man Jesus Christ, who is the Word made flesh, the implications of this basic truth are revealed in the concrete and repeatedly spelled out in the Lord's  preaching. Today's text illustrates well this condition of tension in which we are providentially situated when read in conjunction with other, no less fundamental  points of  his message.

Elsewhere he speaks of avoiding a show of our devotion and piety; we are to enter into our private rooms and there pray to the heavenly Father in secret. We must not trumpet out acts of charity before men, lest we receive our reward in this world; when we have a celebration we are to invite the poor and destitute, not those who in turn can invite us to their feasts. We are to recognize our need for God's mercy for we have sinned and remain prone to offend him through our proclivity to selfish indulgence and craven desire for ease. Only those who have a low opinion of their merits and even of their own person will be found acceptable to God and shown his favor. The list of similar injunctions is a long one.

Still, this text from St. Matthew's gospel which insists elsewhere on lowliness and humility, is categorical in its proclamation: we who accept Christ's person and his message and strive to live by it are 'the salt of the earth' and the 'light of the world'. And Matthew is not alone in this teaching.john.gif (29258 bytes)John records the directive Jesus had given shortly before he went to his passion, at the end of his public ministry: 'The light is with you only a short while yet, walk while you have the light... while you have the light, believe in the light that you might be sons of light (12:35, 26). St. Paul takes up this same teaching and affirms it repeatedly: 'Your were once darkness but now, though, you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light.' (Ephesians 5:8).And in order to be practical he explains how this is to be done by adding: 'The fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth. Test what is pleasing to the Lord.'  The source of our light, he proclaims, is the glorified Lord Jesus: 'Rise you who sleep and stand up from the dead and Christ will shine upon you. (Eph 5:14).'  Earlier he told another community of converts: 'All of you are sons of the light and sons of the day . . . and so we ought to be watchful and sober (1Th 5:5, 6).' We should be grateful to God, he writes on another occasion, and filled with joy, 'for he has made us worthy to have a share in the inheritance of the saints in light' (Col. 1:12). There is a solid theological reason why we must be children of the light. The one we serve and he with whom we would be united is 'the Lord of Lords and the King of kings who dwells in inaccessible light' (1Tim 6:15, 16) and only those who can sustain the light by their affinity to it are able to abide in his glory.

Clearly, then, we are to have a high opinion of our self, a convinced and strong sense of dignity and a mission worthy of the destiny to which God calls us. But we are to remain keenly aware that our worth is a pure gift of God's love, and the fruit of his mercy; it is not an acquisition achieved by our strenuous efforts, nor even a reward of our merits. Yet we must strenuously apply ourselves to correspond faithfully and generously to the requirements of the Lord's service and presence. It is within the tension existing between this sense of our dignity and our unworthiness that we are to walk before God and among our fellow creatures, living in this world, earnestly engaged in working for its betterment and salvation, yet with our hearts and desires anchored in God our Father.

This is the message Jesus preaches in today's Gospel. We hear these words in the context of the Eucharist given us as a pledge that we are not left to ourselves in our efforts to put into effect this program of life. The Lord of glory himself comes to us at this altar to accompany us in our striving and make possible, day by day, what otherwise surpasses our powers. Each time we enter into communion with him in this sacrament he imparts precisely what we need in our weakness, the living knowledge of God as our Father. It is this living and loving knowledge of our heavenly Father that gives us the strength of conviction that we are truly the salt of the earth and the light of the world. For we truly belong to the Lord as his children and we possess his Holy Spirit who is the pledge of our future and eternal glory.