Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, February 6, 2011

First Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9a [9b-12]

Psalm: Psalm 112:1-9 [10]

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 [13-16]

Gospel: Matthew 5:13-20

Every so often, I have a boss who wants us, the lower-level managers and the faculty, to create mission statements. Some years we’re creating mission statements for the school, and some years, we’re creating individual mission statements. The mission statements we come up with are usually useless collections of vague language that signifies nothing and makes no promises. Who teaches these management skills? I’m sure that some corporation somewhere in the years just after World War II had great success with this visioning process, but I’ve yet to see any group energized by it.

With the Gospel for this Sunday, we get our mission statement from Jesus. We are to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. It’s an interesting time of the year to contemplate light. Tomorrow is Candlemas, both a pagan holiday and a Christian holiday that celebrates the presentation of Jesus at the temple. It’s grown into quite an interesting festival in Mexico, where people bring their baby Jesuses from the Christmas mangers into cathedrals for a blessing (go here for more details on that festival and all the ways that people dress up the baby Jesus for the event).

Maybe you read this passage, and you despair. Maybe you yearn for verses about dimly burning wicks and the assurance that God will not extinguish you for your lackluster burning.

Jesus tells us that we are to let our light shine, but he doesn't tell us how hard it will be some days. As a child, I always thought that once the light was lit, the hard part was over. I would just shine and shine and not hide my light under a bushel and not let Satan pfff it out (as that old song goes).

How do we keep our light from going out? I suspect it's in the various disciplines that we adopt to strengthen our spiritual lives: praying, reading the Bible, reading other spiritual literature, fasting, tithing, charitable giving, working for social justice, practicing gratitude, noticing the wonders of the world.

It's important to realize that we can't keep our lights lit if we see this activity as a weekly duty. I suspect that even a once-a-day duty isn't enough. We need to develop disciplines that reorient us throughout the day. We need to build in breaks throughout the day to attend to our wicks and lights.

It’s important to remember that we are often the only light of Jesus that many people will see throughout the week. How would our attitude and behavior change if we saw our lives through this prism? We are the instruments and tools that God uses to deliver God’s light into the world. How can we make ourselves better at the task?

Some of us think that we need to lead people to Jesus by talking to them about our faith. But our lives and our actions have already done all the talking before we ever open our mouths. Keep that in mind as you interact with people. Let your life do the shining. Be the salt that adds savor to everyone’s surroundings. Glorify God in this way.

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