This is an approximation of the homily I delivered at St Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell at the 4:00 PM Mass on Saturday Feb 8 and at the 11 AM Mass on Sunday Feb 9, 2014. The readings for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A can be found by clicking here.
Tuesday I was driving home from work late. My wife Pam had warned me that there might be some fog and asked me to be careful. The drive seemed fine. After about a ½ of a mile on to the Twin Span Bridge, all of a sudden it was so dark, and the fog was so thick that I could not see the railings. I could neither see the lights of the cars behind me nor the taillights of the cars that I knew were ahead of me. I was afraid to drive on for fear of hitting something ahead and I was afraid to slow down for fear of being hit from behind As I came down the hump of the high rise portion, in front of me, I see of all the crazy things, 3 street sweeping trucks cleaning the shoulders of the twin spans. They had these huge blinking arrows on them warning oncoming traffic to get over. My first thought was – of all the stupidest things- cleaning the twin span in the middle of the worst fog ever. My second thought was – thank you God for sending these trucks to light my way. I safely followed the light of the street sweepers off the Twin Spans until the fog lifted enough so that I could drive the rest of the way home at a fairly normal speed.
And in a way, as Christians, we are called to be like those street sweepers – lighting the way for those trapped in darkness so that they can find their way home.
Our culture has become obsessed with privacy. From the doctor’s office to the credit card company, we are becoming overwhelmed with privacy. And with this privacy mindset, we tend to think of religion as private, something for ourselves. Our religion should bring us peace and comfort, but it is not there for US, it is there for us to bring it to others. Our faith unshared and unproclaimed is like lighting a lamp and putting it under a bushel basket; it is useless.
During the Baptism ceremony, someone, usually the father or godfather, lights the child's candle from the Easter candle. Then the priest or deacon says:
Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He is to walk always as a child of the light. May he keep the flame of faith alive in his heart.
As a Christian, what does it mean to be a light of the world? IF you missed that message, you might have been snoozing during the Liturgy of the Word. Every scripture reading today proclaims the answer - the light of Christ is seen in this dark world by our good deeds. From the first reading we know that these good deeds include our social interaction with others (remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech”) and works of justice and mercy (Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them)
The responsorial psalm echoes the message of justice and charity as we sing T he just man is a light in darkness to the upright. From the second reading we know that good deeds include speaking the truth with courage
Finally, the Gospel concludes that we have both a right and a duty to behave in just ways both in our private dealings with people and in public life. So that others can recognize this good, see that it comes from God, and glorify God accordingly.
What makes it possible for darkness to take over the world? How does evil thrive? It is when Christians decide to keep their faith private. Lets look at 3 examples:
Russia was predominantly Christian (Russian Orthodox) when Joseph Stalin took over. Between 1932 -39 Stalin had between 7and 20 million people killed? How? When Hitler came to power in Germany, the country was 94% Christian. 94%!! 54% Protestant and 40% Catholic. The estimates that I have seen are that, excluding war causalities, Hitler and his regime were responsible for the deaths of between 11 and 21 million civilians. How is that possible? In a Christian nation? I admit, the answers are complicated, but without the cooperation of the Christian people, these murderous regimes would not have been possible.
If you think Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany are long ago and far away, lets look a little closer to home. All nine justices of the 1973 Supreme Court who ruled on the Roe V Wade case were --- drum roll----Christians. 3 Presbyterians, 3 Episcopalians, 1 Catholic, 1 Methodist and 1 Lutheran. 7 of the 9 decided to keep their faith private. Of the 9, only William Rehnquist, the Lutheran and Byron White, an Episcopalian, dissented from the opinion. Even the lone Catholic, William Brennan cooperated with evil. The result of that has been 57 million babies murdered in the United States since 1973. How is this possible in a supposedly Christian nation?
What makes it possible for darkness to take over the world? It is when Christians, those just like you and I, stand on the sidelines and watch the world go by. It is when Christians hide their light under a bushel basket.
What is our homework?
Light is what makes it possible people us to see. No light, no vision. To be the light of the earth means to show people where they are to go. We don’t have blinking arrows on us like the street sweepers did for me on the twin spans. The light we have is the light of Christ. We have a duty to let it be seen. Today, each and every one of us must begin to live our faith in public.