Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Parables of Jesus: Light of the World

Matthew 5:[14]-16:

You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

I'm just going to jump right into this today. No preamble.

So this one is very similar to Salt of the Earth. It's given to us in the same context: that of the beatitudes, and actually follows immediately after the Salt of the Earth. So what about it? Why does Jesus call us the light of the world?

To explain what He means, He makes two other comparisons: a city seated on a mountain, and a candlestick. A city on a mountain cannot be hid. Also, a candle is not lit to be hidden, but to bring light to all in the house. So, there's really two elements to this.

The first is that you, being a city seated on a mountain, cannot be hidden. Jesus is the mountain. Our Faith is the mountain. The Church is the mountain. And we, being seated here, cannot be hidden. Those who know who we are watch us. They watch what we do. They see us, and they measure. As the Church, we proclaim absolute morality, we declare truth, we profess that we hold the whole truth. Therefore, since this is our claim, our declaration, our profession, people observe to see if we measure up to that Faith. Whether we like it or not, we are that city seated on a mountain. We are automatically, by declaration of our Faith, representatives of that Faith, and how we behave is how we represent.

The second is that you, being a candle lit by God, are not intended to be hidden under a bushel. No, God has lit you up in order that you might shine before all men, that they may see, and seeing the truth, bring praise and glory to God, who is in heaven.

So, not only can you not hide yourself, but doing so is against the will of God. This teaching is, as I said earlier, given to us in the context of the Beatitudes. This is important. This informs how it is we are to shine before others.

When Jesus says, "that they may see your good works," He intends for us to understand these works to be in relation to the beatitudes. The beatitudes, strictly speaking, aren't works though. All in all, they are either dispositions or things that happen to you because of your disposition or Faith. That doesn't mean there aren't works that are associated with these. Briefly, I will say a few words about each beatitude in this regard, just as I did in the last post.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. When one is humble, he is not above any kind of work. Look at Mother Theresa for an example here. She went into the garbage pits of India to offer whatever comfort to the people living there that she could offer. That is poverty of spirit. If you're a manager at a large corporation, are you too good to do the basic, menial tasks? What about those works that don't garner any recognition or praise? Do you do those? Don't be afraid to do the things people don't normally want to do.

Blessed are the meek. As I talked about last time, meekness is about being in control of your passions. Works associated with this require gentleness. To have a kind word, when you want to shout at the person who's being aggravating. It is not being forceful, when you want your way, but being willing to fulfill the will or desire of another instead. Show restraint. Don't gobble down that cake like you're going to die tomorrow. Show moderation. When everything around you is falling apart, or all your friends are drunk, you're in control, collected. You don't need to indulge yourself to be happy. Only serve the Lord.

Blessed are they that mourn. No, this doesn't mean be weepy all the time. It means to be sensitive to the suffering of others, and to be sensitive the ugliness of sin and injustice. The work that draws from this is to seek to comfort others in their sorrow and pain. It is to be able to sit in silent support of the one who is weeping in sorrow, and not try to fix the problem because you're uncomfortable by the crying. Just be there, when you're needed. Accept others' vulnerability, and be willing to be vulnerable.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice. This one might seem more obvious, but I think it's a bit nuanced. Justice is also translated as righteousness, in some Bibles. There's a reason for that. We tend to think of justice as being on the right side of the law, for having "justice served," and making sure people are punished for their crimes. That's a part of it, but that's really only a part. Justice, in the Christian understanding, is the manner in which God intended to things to be. For humanity, that means being righteous, and holy. It means being in union with God, and communion with our neighbors. He who hungers and thirsts after justice, seeks always the will of God. Holiness isn't something we are forced to do, but don't really wanna. Rather, it's something we thirst for, something we crave. Pray. Read Scripture. Practice virtue. Do penance. Fulfill the righteous requirements of this holy religion that is our Faith.

Blessed are the merciful. In the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. We have to be merciful to those who seek mercy, and we have to have a heart willing to forgive those who have not yet sought our forgiveness. Otherwise, we will be subject to the same judgment by which we judged others. If we are merciful, God will be merciful to us. But it's not just for our sake. Having a merciful heart means understanding how often and how deep God's forgiveness for our own sins is. We ask forgiveness in Confession, then the next day we go out and sin the same sin, and we do this over and over again. Yet, God forgives us. The magnitude of the sins we have committed against Him for exceeds whatever has been done against us. Recognize this, and forgive. Tell the person who has sinned against you, "I forgive you". It can be transformational.

Blessed are the clean of heart. Do not use people. Do not look at pornography. Don't have cheap sex. Don't look at people like the next opportunity. Be self-donating. Listen, even when you don't want to. Look for the beauty that rests within all people. They are made in the image and likeness of God. Give your time and energy to people, not for your own benefit, but because they are dignified persons worthy of your time and energy. Volunteer your time. Do good for others without expectation of return.

Blessed are the peacemakers. When you're in a fight, it's very easy to allow things to escalate, especially when you want to win. Being a peacemaker means looking for the good in the one you're fighting with, and offering them the compliment. It means accepting defeat, even if you have the upper-hand. It also means being attentive to the sources of conflict, and managing things--your own behavior, as well as others, and environmental factors--in such a way as to reduce the possibility of conflict arising. Recognize that God intended us to live in communion with one another, not in disunity. This also applies to inner peace. Be attentive to the conflict that exists in others, and yourself, and look for ways to help resolve that conflict.

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake. You say you believe that this or that is the right thing to do--that it is righteous? What if someone laughs at you for it? What if you get kicked out of school for it? What if someone attacks your family and loved ones to teach you a lesson, or to shut you up? Are you willing to suffer for what is true and right and good? Jesus is calling you to this. He expects this to happen to you. Stand firm. Remember, you are a city seated on a mountain. Let them come.

Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake. If you are willing to suffer for your principles, you must also be willing to suffer for Him. Remember, Jesus doesn't say, "blessed are ye if they revile you." Rather, He says, "blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you[...] for my sake." You will be persecuted. You don't need to worry about going out of your way on this one. When you profess your Faith in Him, they will do this to you. Again, do not falter. He is with you. You are the candle that God has lit, and you will not be hidden, but will shine for all in the house to see. Shine bright, and let them come.

God bless, and thank you for reading.

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