Sunday Sermon for February 5, 2017, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Is 58:7-10, 1 Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16

In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that we are the light of the world. This is a great privilege, but it comes with an equally great responsibility. We are to give light to everyone around us, not by our scintillating speech or profound wisdom, but by living a life of charity. Our Lord said it most simply: “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.”

How many of us give such witness to our Lord by the way we live our lives that people are glorifying God on our account? Sadly, not many of us are doing what our Lord instructed us to do. Unlike St. Paul, who chose to preach nothing but Christ crucified, we tend to preach ourselves and a lot of worldliness. By “preaching” I do not mean that we have to be out speaking about the crucified Lord all day long. No, our mission is far more difficult: we have to live Christ crucified all day long.

It will be obvious to anyone whether or not we are doing this, just as it would be obvious to anyone if a light was on or not. So, if we are to be the light of the world, we will not illumine anything or anyone if the light is not on. A light bulb is made for the purpose of providing light. A bulb can be screwed into a fixture and never be turned on, bu then it is not really fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. So, too, if we are not living our faith in Jesus Christ crucified, we are not fulfilling the purpose of our baptism.

As we saw above, it is not necessary to have all kinds of fancy words, dazzling arguments, and moving stories. What is necessary, as St. Paul points out in the second reading, is a demonstration of the Spirit and the power of God. St. Paul says that this is what brought about the conversion of the Corinthians because he arrived with much weakness, fear, and trembling. But living the life of the crucified Jesus, he allowed the power of God to work through him so that his example, more than any words or wisdom, shone brightly so that the people were converted to the Lord.

What does this look like practically? It certainly does not mean that we should look like we were just removed from the Cross. Rather, it means that knowing the love of Jesus that was displayed for us on the Cross, we now strive to love others as we have been loved. It means bringing to others the hope that we have based on the Crucified Christ. But just telling people to trust or to have hope is not going to do much for anyone. They need to see that we trust God and that we have hope that helps us to look beyond this world.

To love as we have been loved does not mean being physically crucified for others, but it means dying to self for the sake of others. It means serving others in a selfless manner. In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah gives us some practical ideas of what this might look like. He tells us that if we share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked and do not turn our back on our own, then our light will break forth like the dawn. Beyond this he says that if we remove oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech, then light shall arise for us in the darkness and the gloom shall become for us like midday.

Clearly this is what it means to be the light. However, as we can see from what Isaiah says, unlike a light bulb, we are not the source of the light; God’s light will shine through us. He is the One Who will provide the light, but it requires that we have to be enlightened first. This is possible for each one of us. The wonderful thing about this kind of light is that it not only gives light to others, but others will want to participate in the light by bringing it to others. God’s light, shining through us, will cause others to be illuminated.

When we look at the list Isaiah gives us, it is the way things used to be in our country. We had the blessing of God because we walked in His light. The Lord tells us in Isaiah that if we do these things, our wound will be healed and God will answer when we call. The darkness around us is profound. Be the light of the world, enlighten others, and give glory to God.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit