Sunday Scripture readings, Feb. 5, 2023: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 58:7-10 Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 Cor 2:1-5 Mt 5:13-16
We give others light by giving our love
Not so long ago, that was a common question in a world where people unabashedly smoked cigars, cigarettes and pipes. It meant: Got a match? Or a lighter? It was usually muttered as a mumble by some guy with a cigarette already between his lips. (Watch any old movie on TCM and you’ll see what I mean.)
Now that public smoking has gone the way of public telephones — again, watch old movies to see what I’m talking about — I think this question has a new resonance for Christians, offering us a way to look at our lives.
Here, in three little words, we find what amounts to a potent examination of conscience. Are we giving off light? Affirmation? Hope?
Looked at another way: Are we still on fire with the flame we received at baptism? Or has the spark started to sputter and fade?
As we slide deeper into Ordinary Time — and for much of the world, deeper into the icy grip of winter — this is no small concern. Consider the very element we’re talking about. Light throws off illumination, warmth and energy. It scatters shadows and dispels fear. It makes it possible to see.
And if we look hard enough, we see something central to our lives as disciples. Our call as Christians is nothing less than to “be” light, drawing on the source of light, Jesus Christ, to give encouragement and hope to a world that so often feels discouraged and hopeless.
This is a good moment to look within and ask: Are we answering the call? Do we give off light?
If we wonder how we can do that, the passage from Isaiah is a good place to start. On a Sunday when the readings refer again and again to light, this sets the scene — and then it flicks the switch. If we want to light up the world, the prophet writes, begin here:
“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 …”
The answer is so fundamental. We give light by giving love — by opening our hearts to the hungry, the poor, the naked.
Because compassion matters. Charity matters. Loving our neighbor matters. At times, it can even set the world ablaze.
Centuries before Christ, prophets and poets were calling for fellowship, solidarity and communion — extending a hand to help the helpless. This is the way to scatter the shadows of a cruel and unjust world. The psalmist agrees: “The just man,” he writes, “is a light in darkness to the upright.”
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus refers once again to light, and he makes “being” light, and sharing it with the world, a sacred command.
In the Christian school of discipleship, being light is not an elective. It is a requirement — a “must.”
“Your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
In the beginning, in Genesis, God’s first recorded words in scripture announce what The Creator wants and what his creation needs: “Let there be light.” But our human capacity for sin soon cast a pall over creation. And so, God whispered those words again, sending a new light into the world through Christ.
In these first weeks of a new year, we hear about the early days of Christ’s ministry and realize once more how we are meant to carry the light of Christ into places of darkness and pain.
This Sunday, let’s look anew at our lives — at what we have done and what we have failed to do — and ask ourselves the question that we don’t hear often anymore, but that still demands an answer:
Got a light?
Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog, “The Deacons Bench.” He serves in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York.