Anyway, without further ado, here's my
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Text: Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalm 112:4-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16
Paul writes that his “… message and … proclamation were not [given] with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power.”1 That sounds like something that belongs only to those special, saintly people. How could I ever give such a convincing demonstration of God’s power?
I want to go back to Jesus’ answer to John the Baptist’s disciples about who he is: “‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.’”2 These demonstrations of God’s power sound extraordinary, and yet, in a spiritual sense, they are my experience too: I am healed and sustained by God’s love, often as expressed through others—you included.
Jesus’ words in the Gospel remind us that expression of God’s love through us is our purpose; we do not live just for ourselves. Salt is a seasoning: it enhances the taste of a meal. Light makes other things visible. Neither is an end in itself.3 Jesus urges us to live that calling fully, making our good deeds shine as a beacon to draw others. That is the demonstration of God’s power: the power to transform each and all of us.
That calling is challenging, though. Fr. Ron Rolheiser points out that “To live in the light means to live in honesty, pure and simple, to be transparent, to not have part of us hidden as a dark secret.”4 The integrity and openness that entails means that we have to address the things we keep hidden: sins, addictions, and wounds can lead us to hide part of ourselves. We may also be uncomfortable revealing our faith in some contexts, separating our “Sunday selves” from the rest of our lives. If I’m not the same person at work or with my friends or family as I am here, though, where is my integrity?
That separation between the versions of ourselves we show can also come about in a different way. Fear of judgment, particularly for things which may run counter to community conventions, holds many of us back from revealing ourselves, even here at St. Joseph’s. As Pope Francis recently wrote, “People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted.”5 We as a community have to take to heart Isaiah’s words, and “… remove from [our] midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech.”6
Confronting this fear of being condemned for something one believes is okay or even good is an experience which is so common among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people that it has been named: it’s called “coming out.” It’s a which applies to a lot of things we keep hidden if they’re socially “nonstandard”: not only sexual preference and gender identity, but also relationship status, mental illness, type of employment (or lack thereof), past sins, and other attributes might lead to censure. Even if most people are accepting, a few can inflict disproportionate hurt, and discourage all of us from opening ourselves and living in the light.
We can so easily remain attached to social and institutional norms, so that we don’t see how God is revealed in a new light through others. All of our lights are to shine before each other,7 not just some; light comes in a spectrum--a rainbow--of colors, and we see most clearly when the light is not just of one color, but of all colors. Let’s keep in mind the conclusion of Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples: “‘And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.’”8
The less each of us imposes our judgment, the more we will all be free to reveal and become our true, best selves—the selves God created. God’s Spirit and power move in each of us; if we honor that, God will move in all of us together. Then we will begin to realize and reveal the Kingdom of Heaven, where these glimmers unify in the radiant white light of God’s transforming, universal love.
1: 1 Corinthians 2: 4
2: Matthew 11:5
3: Eleonore Stump, “Salt and Light”, Saint Louis University, accessed 1 Feb 2014.
4: Fr. Ron Rolheiser, “To Live in the Light”, Saint Louis University, accessed 1 Feb. 2014.
5: Pope Francis, “Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter”: Pope’s message for the 48th World Day of Social Communications, Vatican City, 24 January 2014
6: Isaiah 58:9
7: Matthew 5:16
8: Matthew 11:6