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A city built on a hill

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

  • 9-12 year olds

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.

When I was praying with the Gospel, the image of the city built on a hill stuck with me. I remember when I was little, driving home at night with my family after visiting out-of-town relatives. The many lights of our hometown would twinkle in the distance as we drove up the road towards it. It gave me a warm, sleepy feeling inside. We were going home.

I wonder if 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 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 draws our attention. It pulls us, like a magnet. Come and see, it seems to say.

Jesus says,

let your light shine before others

He tells us that we are the light that lights up this city, that draws other people closer, 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 we receive the light in Baptism. A small candle is lit from the 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're on to something. Good works: the good 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 work 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 help.

What else?

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 hard 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.

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,


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