From the Gospel today (Matthew 5:14-19) it is clear that we have to follow the commandments of God to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ does indeed fulfil the law. His teachings do not abolish it; rather they take it further. The Old Testament teaching of “an eye for an eye” limited the revenge taken for a wrong, much better that an all out blood feud. Now, however, in Christ’s teaching, we are to love our enemies. The law and the prophets both hang on the great commandment to love God totally as far as we can and to love our neighbour as ourselves. The demands of law as it applied to Judaism are not abolished, rather we are to surpass them.
The startling news in today’s reading is that we are to be light. We ought to be clear that Christ HIMSELF is the light of the world. When Jesus spoke to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Similarly we read in the beginning of the Gospel of St. John. Christ is the Light, the Light that shines in the darkness and is the Life of all.
Now Our Lord tells us that WE are the light of the world. The simple truth is that we carry on Christ’s work as members of His Church. This includes keeping the commandments and so the two aspects of the Gospel today, fulfilling the law and being light to the world are linked. We are called to be lights in the world. We are the representatives of Christ in the world today, so of course we take on the role of being light to the world.
Light is vitally important to life. We know the plants need it. Many suffer depression in winter as they get too little sun on their skin living in the gloom. Without light it is impossible to find your way; it is almost impossible to deal with anything. Darkness is useful if you want to hide something or slip things through unseen. Activity you want to be secret tends to be done at night.
To quote from the book of Job:
“There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths… For all of them, midnight is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of darkness” (Job 24:13,17).
The light of God exposes us as we really are. It shows right from wrong, it allows one to make clear decisions with understanding. We need that clear vision. It gets harder if we do not [even] discern the light, the truth from the back ground noise. One of the major changes I have noticed, living in the city of Manchester in contrast to a small town, is the night sky. The stars are drowned out by the murky yellow glow of street lamps and background light from shops, offices and houses. The glorious scattering of stars in the countryside is simply almost invisible and neither is moonlight the same in the city.
[Moon light also is not the same in a city.] The stars and the moon were made to rule the night yet we shut them out with artificial light. In the same way we have a problem when what we think is light is in fact darkness, a mere counterfeit. This is a real spiritual danger.
In his second Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul teaches: “(some) people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Cor 11:13-15).
St Theodore the Studite further develops this idea “For the devil is darkness that takes the semblance and appearance of an angel of light. So the inventor of evil, Satan, makes evil to appear as good; and bitter to appear as sweet; and dark, as light; and the ugly, beautiful; and he represents death as life, and thus deludes the world and tortures it. But let us, brethren, pay special heed so that he will not trap us with his many and evil snares and we suffer like birds that fall from the bait into the nooses and nets. Let us be careful to scrutinise our mind for the craftiness of evil, and in every instance be aware of evil, where it is concealed, and shun it.” (From The Catechetical Homilies and Testament of St. Theodore the Studite, No 47)
There is, therefore, a real danger of confusion by false things which are apparently light but are fakes. Like the light of the stars and the moon veiled by street lights and murk the real truth can be hidden by falsity. That which is false is very present. We live surrounded by noise and masses of information. We may see many websites every day, newsagents shelves will offer us the latest on the lives and affairs of celebrities, and any book shop will stock fanciful books on “body mind and spirit.” These false spiritualities have misled many yet these things remain popular.
The answer to such temptations lies in following our Spiritual fathers, in prayer and in the traditions of the Church. If we live as we are supposed to live then we shall do great things. We are protected and armed by being part of the Church but others outside it are not. WE have a duty, a grave and serious duty to show them the light of Christ. Our lives, our love for all humanity -truly loving our neighbours as ourselves, our simple obedience to God as he has revealed Himself to us has to stand as a witness to the truth. In short we have to be “light to the world.”
For myself, I am resolved to show more light. Christ lives in all of us. Let us then love one another; let us strive to be holy with the help of God’s grace by the indwelling of Christ in us and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The world stands in need of the light that we have; let it not be denied them.