“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5:14)
After teaching us the beatitudes (the way to happiness), Jesus proceeds today in the Sermon on the Mount to explain our role as lights in the world. Note that Jesus is not asking us to try to impress people, rather, He wants us to know that having become His disciples, the world is looking up to us.
As a Christian, you are a light, that is to say, by virtue of your baptism, you are already a role model, an example, a standard for the rest of the world. Whether you like it or not, the world places a lot of expectations on you. Yes, as a Christian, you are constantly being watched. This is what Jesus means by “a city built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
The worst thing that can happen to a Christian is to try to live in pretence (hiding or living in secret). As Jesus would warn us, there is nothing like secret under the sun. (Cf. Mark 4:22). The day you gave your life to Christ, you became a city on a hill. As such, you became a standard for good behaviour and morality. It will therefore be a situation of identity crisis for a Christian to operate by the standards of the people of the world.
The nature of light is to shine. If a light bulb no longer shines, what do you do with it? You simply take it out and throw it away, then get a new bulb. If as a Christian, your life is not making any positive impact in your household, your neighbourhood or your community, then you have failed.
A lot of us Christians today are like dead light bulbs; our presence makes no difference in our society. As parents, many have failed to set good examples for their children and our society as a whole continues to slip down the cliff of moral degradation. As religious leaders, priests and pastors, many of us have lived scandalously emanating darkness instead of light. Many of us have double personalities; the things we condemn in public, we swallow with delight in private. It is like trying to say “Yes” both to God and the devil.
Unlike dead bulbs that are beyond repair once they go bad, the good news is that we are capable of self-repair. We are capable of shining again, we are capable of coming back on even if we have been non-functional in the recent past. This is the point Jesus makes when He says: “Let your light shine so that men may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
God created you good. That is why He expects you to be good. You have so much goodness in you. Don’t be afraid to shine. I once saw a quote by Marianne Williamson: “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, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. 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.”
Let your light shine. Just do the right thing even if you are the only one left standing. As St. Paul teaches us in today’s first reading, you will let your light shine by avoiding double standards. Do not try to be on both sides. Do not be a “Yes” and “No” person. Stop trying to serve two masters. Whatever you do, people must criticise so just let your light shine so that their talking may give glory to God.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, free me from hypocrisy. May I begin to shine once again. Amen.
Bible Study: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, Psalm 119 and Matthew 5:13-16).