(Begin by reading the Gospel. Better yet, ask someone to read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus continues to teach his disciples. He sits on the mountain looking out at them all—all of them looking back at him, waiting, listening. They have come from all over just to listen to him. They have come from across the land; they have come from across time—we are here, too. Does Jesus know that we are here, listening?
“You are the light of the world.
What do these words reveal? How does he feel about all his disciples? What does he think of us? He calls us light.
“A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
What does Jesus mean?
We can think of driving in a car at night with family, coming home after being away. The many lights of our hometown twinkle in the distance as we drive up the road towards it. It gives us a warm, sleepy feeling inside. We are going home.
Perhaps Jesus has the city of Jerusalem in mind when he speaks these words. The city of Jerusalem—the most holy city of Israel—is built high on a hill, with the Temple seated at the highest point of all. When Jesus and his disciples visit Jerusalem, they can see the Temple above the city walls.
A city built on a hill does not hide. Instead, it draws our attention. It pulls us, like a magnet. Come and see, it seems to say.
“No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Well, that makes sense. What would be the point of lighting a lamp just to hide it? Light helps us to see. And not just us. Jesus points out that light helps everyone in the house to see. Light is meant to be shared.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others
He tells us that we are the light lifted up on the lampstand, that lights up the city—the light of the world. We are the light that draws others closer, that helps them to see, that invites them to come home. How can this be? What does he mean? What is this light? How do we get it and how do we let it shine?
We know that in Baptism we receive the light. A small candle is lit from the great Paschal candle—the candle that represents Jesus's Risen life—and the priest says:
Receive the light of Christ...
This child has been enlightened by Christ.
Walk always as a child of the light.
But how? How do we walk as children of the light?
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus continues,
“let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Ah. Now we are on to something. Good works—the things we do because we love walking with Jesus, the firstborn of the dead, the first child of the light.
This points us to the 1st reading for this Sunday, a reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. What sort of good works are we to do?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Taking care of the poor, the hungry, the homeless? We can do that! We will notice those in need and we will not turn away. We will not hide ourselves. We will help.
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil
Ah, yes. We will not say bad things about people, to their faces or even behind their backs. We will not make life more difficult for others.
And what will happen then?
“Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
Good works—this is how we are to be children of light,
how we fill that city on the hill with light for all to see.
This is how we become that holy city,
the place where God lives,
where God says, ‘Here I am.’
I AM home.