“You are the Light of the World”
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Homily for the sixth Sunday after Pentecost
(Mt 5: 14-19)
We celebrate this Sunday the memory of the Fathers of the Church who convened in the six first Ecumenical Councils in the first Millennium and defined the Christian faith. These six Ecumenical Councils are common to the Catholics and the Orthodox. And the reconciliation between Catholics and orthodox will be implemented according to these Councils. These Fathers were “the light of the world” by their teaching of the truth and by their deeds: they were “Orthodox” in their faith, which means that they proclaimed the “right doctrine”; and they were “holy” in their life. That is why we call them “the holy Fathers”.
The Gospel we read today is about the recommendation of Jesus to all who believe in Him to be “the light of the world”. In the Gospel of St. John we hear Jesus say: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (8:12). And in this passage of this Gospel of St. Matthew we hear Jesus say: “You are the light of the world”. A Christian is not only someone who believes that Jesus is the light of the world, but also someone who is called to become himself like Jesus the light of the world.
The baptism is called in the Christian tradition “illumination” or “enlightenment”. By baptism we are united to Jesus Christ who is the light of the world, and we pass from darkness to the light. Darkness is the symbol of the ignorance and of the sin: ignorance of the mind, and sin of the deeds. By baptism our mind is enlightened, we see the truth about God and about human beings; and we are empowered to act in holiness according to this divine truth.
The cause of all the sins of the world, of all the fighting between individuals and all the wars between nations is that, according to the Gospel of St. John, “the light has come to into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God” (3: 19-21).
We read in the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians: “Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true, and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said: Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light” (5: 8-14).
And we read in the first letter of St. Peter: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people but now you are the People of God; once you were outside the mercy but now you have been given mercy” (2:9-10). Then he adds accordingly: “Always behave honorably among pagans so that, in case they speak against you as wrong doers, they may see your good works and glorify God on the day of reckoning” (2: 12). We have here the same idea as in Matthew: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).
What does mean “to glorify God”, or “to give glory to your Father who is in heaven”? To glorify God means to be the living proof in this world of the existence of God. God is not someone, some “big brother”, who lives outside the world. He is present in this world; He is the Holy transcendent dimension of this world. That is the profound meaning of the Incarnation. “The Holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35), “the Word of God, who ‘was in the beginning with God”, He “through whom all things were made”, He in whom “was life, and the life was the light of he world” (John 1: 1-4), came “to dwell among us” (John 1:14) to “make his home with us” (John 14: 23).
By our holy deeds we manifest his presence. There is a difference between “the existence” and “the presence”. To the atheists who don’t believe in God, we cannot prove the “existence” of God somewhere in the sky, but we can manifest his “presence” in us by our holy deeds. We are called to be the continuation of the Incarnation. In Him Who is the Son of God we also become sons of God, in Him who is the light of the world we become the light of the world. We are responsible of manifesting the presence of God in this world. There is a permanent battle between atheism and faith, between darkness and light. And in this battle, the destiny of the world depends on us. God has overcome darkness when He created the world, as we read in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a might wind swept over the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light” (1:1-3).”
With the Incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus Christ there is a new beginning, as we read in the first chapter of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In him was life, and the life was the light of men”. Then he adds: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5).
We believe that Jesus Christ is the divine and eternal light of the world; we believe that, in spite of all the evils in the world, darkness cannot overcome this divine and eternal light. And we say with St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “For it is the God who said, ‘let light shine out of darkness’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (4:6).
We conclude with the following recommendation of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans “It is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (13: 11-14).
Lord Jesus Christ I confess that I have sinned against you, against God, against the Truth, against the Light. I have lived in darkness; I have done the deeds of darkness. Now I repent of my sins, I want to start a new life with you, a life of holiness, and a life of light. Be my strength and my help. For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we shall see the eternal light in this life and in the life to come. Amen