Fr. Paul MacNeil
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Do you even wonder why you're here (in Church on Sunday morning)? Are there not other things that we could be doing? Does any of this really matter? Are we making any kind of difference in our lives or in our world?
The answer is, of course, yes. In today's first reading, God’s chosen people are described as a light to the nations. “I will give you as a light to the nations that my salvation may reach the end of the earth.” In our Christian tradition, we are expected to evangelize, to spread the good news of our salvation. In the old testament, that was often expressed in terms of the hope of a community of people that God loves very deeply. Sometimes it is expressed even as a person that God loves very profoundly - we hear it referred to as Jacob, as Israel, almost as if they are referring to a historical figure. “You are my servant Israel in whom I will be glorified. In the old testament, the assumption was that this community of people would be a light for all nations, teaching them the way to salvation.
In the Gospel, we see the absolute fulfilment of that salvation, again, as a person, as Jesus Christ. He is baptizing with the Holy Spirit. The dove came and said, “this is my son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” All this is because Jesus is the hope of the future, our salvation.
But are we not also a community? As Christians, do we not still have that mandate to be the light to the nations? Jesus said before he ascended to heaven, “ Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations.” His last message to us, is it not the most important? And what about “you are the light of the world, a city built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
I want to share three reasons, all related to the incredible joy the Christian message is trying to bring to the world.
First, the moral teachings of Jesus Christ are really good. They are amazing. If I had children, I would want them to follow this teaching. What teaching? Well, the Golden rule, for one. Here is how it is worded in the Gospel of Matthew: “In everything, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. For this is the law and the prophets (Mt. 7:12)” Consider all of our criminality, our lack of justice, our bullying, the abuse of power, even our rudeness — all of it could be reduced, if not eliminated, through the practice of this law and the world would be a better place. “How would you like it if…” We seem to forget that so quickly today. That’s a light that the world needs.
The second reason I believe Christianity is a light for the world is something more spiritual — the forgiveness of sin. I don’t know if there is a difference between spirituality and deep psychology, especially the elimination of guilt. We torture ourselves so much. I spoke of this Friday in my weekday homily. Think about the power of Jesus - he spoke the truth, sacrificed his life, worked miracles and opened the gates of paradise. Wow, God is strong to do that. But when it comes to forgiveness, it’s so easy. Which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven or take up your mat and walk? But to show you that God can forgive sins, I say to you, take up your mat and walk.” Forgiving sins to God is the easiest thing he does. Yet why do we make it so hard? I know, we have a confession, and that’s a very scary thing. But then don’t start with that. Start with the silence of your heart and say to God, if you need to, “oops, I was wrong. I did wrong. I didn’t act according to the Golden rule. I would not have liked to be treated the way I treated them.” And they say to God, you’re sorry and feel the waves of healing wash over you. That’s the light that the world needs, that you need.
Finally, let’s talk about salvation. Part of me, as a human being, is afraid to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want my friends to die. I don’t want to say goodbye. It’s too painful. It’s too sad. And we go through so much to try and numb that fear or that pain. Yes, Jesus turned to the thief crucified beside him, knowing that he broke the golden rule, that he was sorry for what he did, and that Jesus was the light of the world even when nothing but darkness was surrounding him. He said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” What about that? Isn’t that good news? That’s the light that you need, that hope, that confidence. It’s the light that the world needs.
So I remind that skeptical part of you that wonders why I’m here right now. Well, there are three reasons that I find very moving in my heart; I don’t know about you. I hope that, as Christians and Catholics, we can act that way and be the light God wants us to be.
I conclude with a quotation from Mariann Williamson. It’s about letting our light shine. She’s trying to encourage insecure people who hide their talents so they won’t draw any attention to themselves. She’s trying to say, and she’s quite correct, no, let your light shine. I will conclude with this quote, but as I read it, I want you to think about our community. It is not only individuals who need encouragement to let our light shine, but our whole Catholic Faith, even our parish of St. Alexander. We are also a light to Fonthill and beyond as we love God, love others and follow Christ.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.