Homily for February 9, 2014: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Fr. Scott Bullock

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 9, 2014

Reading 1  Is 58:7-10

Responsorial Psalm   Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (4a) The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

Reading 2   1 Cor 2:1-5

Gospel   Mt 5:13-16

Click here to LISTEN to this week's homily.


Perhaps you are aware that there is a large body of Jewish wisdom ascribed to various Rabbis, collected over the centuries as particularly knowing of the human condition and the ways of God.  Remember, for example, that many called Jesus “teacher,” in Hebrew rabbi. One such piece of rabbinic wisdom follows: Rabbi Moshe Loeb taught:  “When someone comes to you and asks for help, then you must not say to him with a pious mouth, ‘Have trust and cast your care on God!’ What you must do is act as if God did not exist, as if in the whole world there were only one person who could help the man:  you alone.”

Doesn’t this sound like a remarkable piece of Christian wisdom: act as if God did not exist?  How could we possibly adopt such a perspective, when we come here to profess faith in the God whose existence the wise rabbi suggests, practically, we ought to deny? In order to consider if we can in fact live according to this “practical atheism,” acting as if God did not exist, we must go back to our baptismal day and recall a powerful symbol from that day. Symbols—material realities—are things that indicate hidden, spiritual realities.  The symbol—the baptismal candle

At the baptism, after the person, oftentimes a baby, is baptized, s/he is anointed with holy oil on the forehead, like a king or a queen, while the priest prays:  “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” Then, a godparent lights a smaller candle from the large baptismal candle, which represents Christ, the light of the world.  The priest prays, in part, “This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ.  He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light.  May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart.” The message is clear—in baptism, we are now a member of Christ’s body, enlightened by Christ, and empowered to walk as a child of the light.

The early church Father St. Hippolytus of Rome said that the person baptized “comes up from the baptism brilliant as the sun, flashing forth the beams of righteousness, and, which is indeed the chief thing, he returns a son of God and joint-heir with Christ.” [Discourse on the Holy Theophany]  The Son of God, in baptism, makes of us other Sons (and daughters) of God  We can, therefore, act as if God did not exist in the practical matters of charity to others because, in baptism, we have taken part of the light of Christ and it has made us a Christian, “another Christ,” who then is able to share not just the human persons virtues and good works, but instead the very light of Christ.  We don’t direct them only to God because, in a certain sense, we have become bearers of God. Because we have been baptized, we have put on Christ and are bearers of Christ’s light to the world. It is for this reason that Jesus can command us, in today’s gospel, to be “the light of the world.”   Over in John 8:12, Jesus said clearly and without ambiguity:  “I am the Light of the World.” In baptism, he shares that light with us, so that he can command us in today’s gospel, “you are the light of the world.”  We in charity then share not just ourselves, but Christ’s light in us.

Yet . . . have you noticed that candles, as they burn and cast a light around them, slowly are consumed.  Imagine, then, the candle given at your baptism, your efforts since then to shine the light of Christ to others through acts of love and charity, and how we might have become like small stubs of candles. [visual aid?] We need to be replenished so we can continue to be the light of the World.  We need to come to the Light, Jesus, be restored to our baptismal glory, so that we can again be the “light of the world.” This is the essence of the Eucharist:  renewed in Christ to be light for the world. Our Pope Francis taught several years ago: “By joining with Christ [in the Eucharist] rather than closing in on themselves, the people of the new covenant are transformed into a sacrament. We are a sacrament for humanity. We are signs and instruments of salvation in the work of Christ, the light of the world and salt of the earth for the redemption of all.  [Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, to the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress, Quebec City] This, my friends, is the place where we become, again, the light of the world for the sake of others.

Recently, a friend of mine, in all honesty, confessed that she doesn’t feel she gets much out of Mass. I could not help but think that this was not an issue of dull music, or poor preaching, or too many collections.  In the end, it was an issue of faith.  For, if we truly believe Jesus’ promise, that when we do this prayer “in remembrance of Him,” he will give us his very flesh for the life of the world, how could we claim we get “nothing” at Mass? If we truly receive the Body and Blood of Jesus here—then indeed we get something quite extraordinary here—the very life of God, for the life of the world.  This is something indeed—it is everything—it is the very life and light of God!

The stakes are enormous here:  the world is waiting, too much in darkness, for us to become the Christ, the light of the world, here at this altar.  For us to be the light of the world, the gift first given in baptism, we need to come, again and again, to the Light of the World Jesus, given to us in the very Body and Blood of Jesus. We need to come to the Light . . . so that others may see in  us the Light . . . and give glory to God.