Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In John’s Gospel Jesus says, immediately after refusing to stone the woman caught in adultery, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) In today’s Gospel that same Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” How can this be?

In our baptism we are immersed in the life of Christ: His life becomes our life, and we become members of His Body. John writes that His life is “…the light of the human race.” (John 1:4) In Luke’s Gospel John the Baptist tells us that, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16) Through these waters of baptism we receive not only the cleansing of our sin, but also the fire of the Holy Spirit: we become torches to light up the world. Our baptism makes us bearers of the Light of the World, and we must shine.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden; the Church is the city of God, a city of which we become citizens by baptism. In Revelation John writes, “One of the seven angels…came and said to me, “Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God… The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasure.” (Revelation 21:9-11, 23-24) We are the Body of Christ, the Church: that means we are the light of the world, as He is the light of the world. If you meet people who reject Christ and the Church, what is one of the greatest reasons they cite? The poor example of Christians: when we do not allow the light of Christ to shine through our life, the world around us can experience darkness.

All this week we will see accounts of Jesus’ light breaking into the darkness of peoples’ lives. Jesus shows us what it is to be a light in the world, to be citizens of that city upon the hill to which all the world, in their heart of hearts, looks with yearning. This fire which burns within us is unlike any natural flame, which consumes its fuel without care. This fire can be hidden; why? Because this fire is the Holy Spirit—the living Love of God—and if we do not wish to be consumed in its flames, then we will not be. The fire will never part from us; it cannot be snuffed out. But it can be hidden, we can bury it such that no one outside of us will see its light or feel its warmth.

Rather let us burn brightly: St. Gemma Galgani once wrote of a vision she had of the whole world on fire, as though in a furnace, and the fire was God’s love. “Those most consumed by the flames,” she wrote, “were the most joyful.”

February 5th, 2017