Monday, August 7, 2017

Reflections on Matthew: You are the Light of the World (Mt 5:14)

I read an online article a while ago that says that our country has not been this divided since the Civil War.  There have always been differing points of view in America from the very beginning of our history, but now what we see are two giant irreconcilable points of view, two philosophies that cannot coexist or find common ground. People differ on major questions such as when life begins, whether there is a God, and whether truth exists or whether everything is just someone’s opinion or point of view.  Despite the major differences, too often people do not want to sit down and talk through their differing opinions.  We just get angry and impatient.  In February a group of students did not like a speaker that was speaking at UC Berkeley, but rather than write a letter to the campus newspaper they started breaking windows and burning things.  

This is a real problem. Thankfully we are not powerless though in the face of what we see happening.  As Christians we are agents of love and unity. We can bring about peace.  We have been given great power by God through our baptism.  Jesus says to his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.”  We should not give into the negative view that religious people, that Christianity, does not have anything to offer to the world and that we should be quiet.  No, we are what the world needs, now more than ever, even desperately.

By living out the Gospel message of the Beatitudes, of dependence on God, meekness, mercy, peacemaking and righteousness, we are light, love and life in the world.  We influence the world for good. The Bishops of Vatican II in their document Lumen Gentium describe the Church – you and me --- as “a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race.“ 

The Beatitudes which we hear about in Matthew chapters 5-7 are the roadmap to unity.   They teach us to “Avoid quarrels, harsh or hurtful words and actions…  [A]void all abruptness of manner, and never speak while in an angry mood”  (Adolphe Tanqueray, The Spiritual Life, number 1164).   They teach us to offer a pleasant word, to suffer patiently… to control my tongue, even in the face of someone who hates me.  This is light that overcomes the darkness.   

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