Chatting With the Light of the World
-- “Light of the world,” Jesus?
-- That’s what I said.
-- And salt of the earth?
-- You heard me.
-- Yeah, I did, but I think I heard somewhere that YOU were “The Light of the World.” Like in all capital letters.
-- Also true.
-- So, what’s the story?
-- Did you read the first reading for today’s mass?
-- Kind of.
-- Did you see how the Prophet Isaiah laid out a whole program for Israel on behalf of the LORD?
-- Well, uh – ok, busted! I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, I admit it.
-- Uh huh. Well, if you had, you’d have seen pretty quick what I mean when I say, “YOU are the light of the world, the salt of the earth.”
-- How’s that?
-- OK, let’s just take a look. So Isaiah says to Israel:
“Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
And he makes a promise to them. If they do all that, then their “light shall break forth like the dawn.”
-- So? What’s the connection between ancient Israel’s behavior and me being the “light of the world”?
-- Wait a minute – read a little further down. He also says:
. . .and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
-- That’s nice, but I’m still waiting to understand the connection between all that and me.
-- Really? What about if we look at the second half of that passage? See here, where he says:
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
“Here I am!” The Lord says, “I am with you.” Who does that make you think of?
-- Jesus, remember when I kind of failed catechism class? Maybe you better keep talking.
-- All right, here’s a little more from Isaiah:
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.
Now do you get it?
-- No, Jesus, I don’t get it. Just tell me in plain English how I can possibly be the light of the world…and also what the connection is between me and all of what Isaiah preached to ancient Israel.
-- Hmmm. You know, I used to have the same problem with Peter and the others back in the day. All right, ready? Here goes: the connection is – me. Jesus the Christ. When I say that you are the light of the world, I mean that as a member of my Body, you share in my vocation as Emmanuel, you know, “God with us.” I mean that you’re called to give light to the world. That’s L-I-G-H-T in plain English.
-- Are you being sarcastic? What are you saying?
-- Not sarcastic, just straightforward. Look, you’re baptized, right?
-- That makes you part of the Body of Christ -- my Body. That’s not just a metaphor; it’s a reality. As part of me, you’re called to be doing the same things that Isaiah spoke of to Israel, things that I did during my public ministry. Those actions are part of who and what I am. Light happens when they are done, whether by me during my life as a preacher and healer in the first century or by you, in your life as one of my members in the 21st century. As Isaiah said, long ago: Light rises in the gloom – of which, I might add, there’s still too much in the world. Get it now?
-- OMG, Jesus, now I’m afraid to ask you about “salt of the earth”!
-- No, seriously, I do get it. I’m part of you, called to take part in you and with you during this life of mine. I’m not off the hook just because I can say “Jesus is the Light of the World.” If anything, that fact reinforces my call to be light myself. You’re right about too much gloom, too: there’s a lot of darkness out there. Listening to Isaiah – and you too, of course – shows me how to be light. And I’ve got to be light in order to give light.
-- Hey, I’m impressed -- now you’re quoting my friend Marie Eugénie! Looks like you’ve got the makings of a disciple after all.
-- Yeah, just like Peter and the guys: a little slow on the uptake, but once I get it, I got it. Thanks, Jesus.
—Sr. Nuala Cotter, RA
Provincial, US Province