Sunday, 2/5/2016, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Prophecy of the Light
First Reading Commentary Isaiah 58:7-10
Isaiah begins today’s prophecy by giving us three of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy. They are: feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and clothe the naked. Isaiah then tells us to take care of our families.
Surely, Isaiah had no idea that the opening lines of this part of his prophecy would become three of the Corporal Works of Mercy. Little did Isaiah know that the One whom he was prophesizing would build a church—the Catholic Church. Little did Isaiah know that there would be both Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Isaiah did not know what Jesus would say when asked, “What is the Greatest Commandment?”
We know that to love God and to love neighbor is to obey the Greatest Commandment. When we perform works of mercy, we profess by action our love for God and for neighbor. And, as Isaiah tells us, we find ourselves in favor with God and good things will happen for us. Our own wounds will be healed and we will be vindicated.
We are being told that when we extend our generosity toward others by helping them when and where we can, we make restitution for our sins. Isaiah says, “And the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.” In other words, God will have our backs. He will watch over us, protect us, answer our prayers and lead us to His Kingdom of heaven.
Isaiah says, “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech…then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” Jesus delivered the same message with the Beatitudes in last week’s Gospel. But in this part of Isaiah’s prophecy, I also see a subtle warning for us to pay attention and be ever vigilant that we follow God's way and not the way of others.
Those who know the way of the Lord cannot expect salvation if they listen to and follow the words and the ways of those who preach anything which is counter to God’s way. This goes deeper than paying attention to false prophets. It includes following the ways of society in today’s world which are often-times immoral, unethical and illicit.
It includes following the ways of others which are designed to and/or result in treating our neighbor without justice but with disrespect, a lack of decency, prejudice, hatred and violence.
It also includes submitting to certain laws of the land which are designed to go against the Will of God. Examples of this are laws which do not protect the sanctity of life such as legalized abortion and capital punishment.
If we stop to meditate on this prophecy from Isaiah and compare it to the things which Jesus said to His disciples, we cannot help but notice that the message is the same—take care of each other. In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus tells us that we are blessed because what we do for others, we also do for Him. Then Jesus tells us to come and inherit the Kingdom prepared for us by the Father.
Indeed, today Isaiah gives us a prophecy of the Corporal Works of Mercy and when we follow the message of Isaiah in this prophecy, we follow the Word of God and the Light of Christ.
Empty Yourself and Invite Jesus In
Second Reading Commentary 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul did not put himself on a pedestal and did not pretend to know everything. In proclaiming this message to the Corinthians, Paul was saying that he came to proclaim the mystery of God and resolved to know nothing except Christ Jesus.
While making a personal testimony, Paul was also giving an example to follow. He was telling the Corinthians that it was not about him. He was not the one who was great and he was not to be the center of attention. Instead, Paul was making the point that it is all about Christ.
Paul said that he came in weakness and fear. Not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power. Paul was proclaiming that he had emptied himself totally and completely to Christ so that the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, could work within him. It was Paul’s intent that the Corinthians and whoever else heard this message, which includes us; would open, themselves up to do the same.
How do we open ourselves up to Christ? It is one of those things in life which is not easy but is very simple. All we have, to do is make Christ the most important thing in our lives. No, that is not easy with the everyday distractions that the evil one throws in front of us but it is that simple.
The difficulty comes with keeping the distractions and temptations of the world out of the way. We have, to be forever vigilant that all, of those worldly pleasures will lead us away from Jesus instead of making it possible to open ourselves up to Jesus. Always wanting more no matter how much we already have will lead us into the deadly sin of greed which is a gateway to a great multitude of other sins. Greed will make us lie, cheat, steal and sometimes even kill.
When we find ourselves falling into this devil’s trap, we need to stop and take a deep breath, tell Satin to get behind us and invite Jesus in. He will light up the right way to go for us.
When Jesus lights the way for us, He also lights the way for others, if we follow the Light, because others will see God’s peace and joy within us. Such is the power of the Holy Spirit which is what Paul meant when he told the Corinthians that he came to them by a demonstration of Spirit so that their faith would not rest on human wisdom but by the power of God.
We Are Salt and Light
Gospel Commentary Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus said to His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything…You are the light of the world.” He told them that they do not, “…light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Sometimes when I teach Children’s Liturgy, before I light the candle, I ask the children why we do that. They are used to me asking them that so they eagerly say, “Because Jesus is the Light of the World.” Jesus did say that He is the Truth and the Light. But in this gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt, of the earth and the light of the world.
We use salt to preserve and to season. Jesus was telling His disciples that they were to preserve His Word and His teachings and His commandments. He was telling the disciples to season the world by spreading the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus would later tell them to go and teach all nations but He was hinting to that instruction here.
Light helps us to see in the dark. Jesus was telling the disciples that they had to be seen. He was telling them that they had to make themselves visible to the whole world. Jesus was telling the disciples to make people take notice of them so that through their deeds, people would be led out of the dark and come to glorify the Father.
With the exception, of Judas, we know that the disciples became just like Jesus as they spread the Word and grew the Church. When we look at the lives of the disciples, we see that they preserved and proclaimed to Word to their death, which for most of them, death came by martyrdom. They spread the Word and took the sacraments to the world in spite, of all odds and obstacles. They became beacons of the Church not only for the people of their time but for us today and for the people of tomorrow. They were as Jesus described them in this gospel because they did as He commanded them. But let’s don’t forget that Jesus is the True Salt and The Light. The disciples received their salt and light from Jesus though the Holy Spirit.
What about us? Do we use the salt that God gave us to proclaim His Word? Are we beacons for our faith or is the oil in our lamps used up? We all have our weaknesses. Some of the greatest saints had weaknesses but they were humble enough to pray for help. Is this, what made them so great? No! It is the reason, why they prayed asking for help that made them great. In a word: faith. They also knew that they could do nothing without God.
When we feel our faith getting weak, we should pray to the Father asking for the Spirit to strengthen our faith in the name of the Son. Amen.