“Let there be light.” The first words God ever spoke.
To this day, every major religion speaks a language of light. Jewish people use the menorah to celebrate the Hanukah miracle of faith triumphing over evil. The Quakers have a famous expression: “I’ll hold you in the light,” instead of our common promise: “I’ll pray for you.”
Light illuminates. It warms. It destroys darkness. It lifts spirits.
The prophet Isaiah makes crystal clear that we are to become a people of light. As he challenges us so powerfully with his inspirational words found in today’s first reading, our actions of “clothing the naked” are to be so far-reaching, our deeds of “bestowing bread on the hungry” are to be so radical, our cries of anguish over the need for “sheltering the oppressed and the homeless” so loud, that they will break forth through the darkness of greed and the idolization of fame and power that engulf us like a shroud of gloom and despair.
Many people speak these days of our culture of depression and anxiety. In the midst of possessing so much, in the midst of untold comfort the likes of which most of the world could never imagine, somehow we are sad and afraid. So much so, we have come to embrace darkness — the darkness of bullying, of pornography, of drugs, of violence, of cynicism, of cruelty, of the horror of human trafficking, of abortion.
Jesus challenges us to embrace the ultimate antidote to all of this darkness. He calls us to create lives of generosity, gratitude and selflessness. He shines a beacon of hope in the midst of this negativity that surrounds us, and tells us instead:
“Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
In our second reading today, the apostle Paul reminds us in very graphic terms that “You were once darkness, but now you are the light in the Lord. Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.”
Jesus goes on to challenge us even further. We are also to be salt — the “salt of the earth.” It’s difficult for us today to understand how critically essential salt was to the ancient world. The great early civilizations first developed near deserts close not only to water, but to salt resources. The ability that salt provided to preserve food was a requirement for people of that time.
But beyond this, salt gave flavor to food. And that’s what Jesus emphasizes. We are to become people who bring a whole new taste to the world we live in. We are to bring “the flavor of God” to all that we do and say. Light and salt are strongly connected. From Jesus’ point of view, the more we create a “God flavor” to life, we become light. We dispel the darkness we find around us.
That new taste, that new “God flavor” becomes contagious. It spreads. It multiplies.
When you were baptized, a candle was lit, and the priest prayed over you: “This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly ... may you walk always as a child of the light.”
God has passed the light of the heavens on to you and to me. Let each of us hold our lives “in the light” and illumine the world we live in by flavoring it with the taste of God.