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In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that Christians are the light of the world.
But if Christians are the light of the world, and there are so many Christians, then why is the world so dark?
The darkness of the world obvious: The examples seem to get worse every day. There are crimes, wars and perversions – but we have always had those. What is worse is the growing rejection of even the notion that there is right and wrong. “The greatest sin today is that men have lost the sense of sin,” Pope Francis said recently, citing Pius XII.
When even Christians lose their sense of sin, the world becomes very dark indeed. Pope Francis said that there is great suffering in the world today because of “our Christian mediocrity, when we lose the sense of sin.”
Why does our mediocrity make them suffer? Because we are the light of the world, and our failure means a mass blackout.
We tend to think of the world as a competing light. If we picked an image we might make the world a city of powerful neon lights that we have to stand up to with our little votive candle. But that’s not what Jesus says. He says it is a place of darkness we are supposed to illuminate.
In other words, the world is in a state of utter weakness. There is no such thing as darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. Ultimately, our job is to provide light where there is none.
Christians not only can do that, we often do. We know from personal experience just how common this is. Meeting a Christian who is surrendered to God is an unforgettable experience. They have a joy about them, and a penetrating spirit that shows you things you would never see otherwise, in a gentle, loving, but totally honest way.
After Raissa Gorbachev met Pope John Paul II, she said, “He is light! He is pure light!”
As author Ross Douthat put it, “The example of a single extraordinary woman, Mother Teresa, did more for Christian witness in the twentieth century than every theology department and political action committee put together.”
But we can also think of examples that are closer to home. Priests and sisters we have known have recharged our faith by their witness. Families we have known who have changed our family with their example. They did it by doing what Mother Teresa and John Paul did: They had a deep prayer life and a loving life of service.
We should all be a little like that — we are all meant to be a light. The trick is to remember that it is not our light, but Christ’s, that really shines out.
How to let it shine? The answer is in today’s Gospel: Take away the “bushel basket”
A bushel basket is something you collect grain in; it’s an instrument of work — it was used in the everyday lives of farmers, merchants and families. Jesus is saying that we tend to hide our light under our work, under the activities of our everyday lives that we don’t allow to be touched by the Gospel. We hide our light when decide that we don’t have to be Christian right now because we need to be busy doing something else.
We need to start our day with prayer, and continue it with service. Love God in our neighbors where we find our neighbors: At home, at school, in the office, at the store.
Christians need to let their lights shine in every aspect of their lives — in their offices, in their social lives, in their family life, in their marriages. Only when people see in us a little bit of what they saw in Mother Teresa and John Paul will they believe what we said.
Only when they see the light in us will the darkness start to dispel.