February 5, 2017

A HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME –  CYCLE “A” –  2/5/17  –  SMG

+   Pax et Bonum!   Peace and goodness to you this day!

A couple of weeks ago I read a great story about a parish in Rwanda, that I want to share with you today.  This particular Parish had had their church destroyed during the 1995 Rwandan genocide.  Many members of the Parish had been killed.  As the Parish sought to re-build itself in the years after the tragedy, they began by re-building the actual church building, which once stood as the heart of the whole community.  Still without electricity years after the destruction of the their church, and with a residual fear of further violence, the dispersed community would only get to together for Mass, in the evening, after the sun when down.  They were able to save their church bell, and after sunset, the priest would ring the bell, calling the community to Sunday Mass.  Bells have always been important to all parishes, for this very purpose.  And each Sunday evening, with the ringing of the bell, a little miracle would happen in that Rwandan community.

As the people made their way to what was left of their Parish church, they carried with them these small, oil lamps, using the lamps to light their way.  And once they got to the church, they used the same lamps to light their Parish church.  When Mass was over, everybody would pick up their lamps and would return home the same way.  Those who witnessed this event every weeks, described it as amazing.  With each household adding their lamp, the church would glow in the dark, brighter and brighter, as it filled up.  It is impossible for us today, hearing this story, to not make a connection with today’s Gospel.  For this broken, grieving community, the lit up church became a sign of God’s continuing presence in the life of their community.  It became the hope that life was returning to normal after so much death and tragedy.  The Sunday evening processions were a witness that God’s light was with them and that God’s life was in them!  The only time all week long that their little church was lit up was when the people were present.  That was when they became truly Church!  Sharing their light with one another!

Isn’t this really true, not just in Rwanda, but really for all believers as we gather on the Lord’s Day.  We gather in the light of Christ, and each Sunday we are challenged to be the light of Christ in the world, and in the lives of others.  The image of light is a powerful one.  We all know how terrifying the dark can be.  We know how important light is to life.  When we have light, we are more secure, and we can see the way, even if that way is difficult, or challenging, or rough.  Light is necessary.  It brightens our vision of life.  And it invites others to share in our vision.

And so, Jesus’ words today, “You are the Light of the World.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden”, are both challenging and consoling.  This is at the very heart of the message of Christianity, most especially Catholic Christianity.  Our lives should shine with Christ’s presence, compassion, care, and love!  And we need to show this in very practical ways, as Isaiah challenges us to do today in our First Reading:  by sharing our bread, and sheltering the oppressed and homeless, by clothing the naked and fighting oppression, and injustice, and evil in the world.   Isaiah is giving us a way to let our light shine, most especially in the world we live in today!

The two images that this Gospel gives us today, of light and of salt, are most interesting because neither of them can exists for its own sake.  Light is no good if there is no one to use it, or to bask in its glow.  I can still here my Dad say, “Why is that light on in that room if no one is in there to use it.”  As the Gospel reminds us, we don’t waste light, you don’t light a lamp and then hide it or cover it up.  Light is meant to penetrate the darkness.  It does make any sense to hide it.  In the same way, salt is no good unless it is used to bring flavor to food.  You don’t put salt on salt.  You have to have food for it to flavor and season.

It is exactly the same way with our Faith!  Faith is no good if it is all about us.  As we grow in our relationship with God through prayer and the Eucharist, we get strengthened to go out and share our Faith with others.  This is absolutely necessary and at the heart of Christianity.  To do what the Gospel asks all of us to do, we must take our Faith out to others, we must be real examples, and we must shine with real light to bring glory to God.

+  May God bless us and help us to do that as Church,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…            AMEN !!!

St. Maria Goretti…                                    Pray for us !!!