From the Desk of Fr. Thomas…
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,
The Readings today challenge us to be the light and salt to the world. It should be our mission, our duty, and our commitment. In our first reading, the Lord God through His prophet Isaiah gives us examples of how we are to allow the light of God to shine through us. “Share your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday”. Using two simple metaphors of salt and light in today’s Gospel, Jesus outlines the role of Christians in this world. As a symbol of purity, salt was the common ingredient in sacrifices offered to God by Jews and pagans. In the ancient world, salt was the commonest of all preservatives, used to prevent the putrefaction of meat, fish and fruits in pickles. Salt lends flavor to food items and was used to season and preserve food. A light is something which is meant to be seen. A lamp or light is a guide to make clear the way. A light serves also as a warning (e.g., red traffic lights which tell us to halt when there is danger ahead. Finally, light, particularly the sun’s, gives warmth and heat. As the salt of the earth, the Christian must have a certain antiseptic influence on life and society, defeating corruption, fighting against injustice and making it easier for others to avoid sin.
The first role of Christians is to be salt in the world. As salt preserves foods, we have to preserve the religious Faith, Christian cultural values and moral principles, which Jesus has given us, and we need to work at reconciling the quarreling factions in families and communities. As the salt of the earth, we also have to add flavor to the lives of desperate people through outreach programs, to give meaning to the lives of people and boost their morale, to offer them occasions to help others, and finally to give hope where there is no hope.
The story of EWTN is the story of a brave woman who had the courage of her conviction that she should be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Mother Angelica (who died in 2016), started broadcasting Catholic TV for just a few hours a day in 1981 from the garage of her Poor Clare Monastery in the US. The project grew and grew, and now, after thirty-five years, the Eternal Word Television Network is available twenty-four hours a day all over the world by cable and satellite. Mother Angelica is an example of a true Christian living out her Faith as salt to preserve Christian values and to provide the modern world with a purifying mass medium. She kept putting her lamp on the lamp-stand so that Christ’s Light would shine for everyone in the modern global village.
The second role of Christians is to receive the light of Christ and radiate it to people all around us in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service. With a little bit of Christ’s Light, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many and removing the darkness caused by hatred, spite and jealousy. We radiate Christ, the Light of the world, by our kindness and respect for others with different ethnic backgrounds, different lifestyles, other faiths or no faith at all.
If you doubt your light matters, take this little quiz: 1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world. 2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Pageant. Do you know all these answers? Probably not. Ask yourself some additional questions: 1. Who fed and clothed you when you were helpless? 2. What was the name of your 1st grade teacher? 3. Who is the first friend you would call in an emergency? You do know the answers to these questions. They are the salt and light of the world.
Just a little light empties the world of darkness. With a little Faith and love we can light up a big social area. Does that encourage us? It should. We may think we’re insignificant – and in a way we are – but with a little bit of Christ, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many. This Christ-light removes the darkness caused by hatred, spite and jealousy. Our good deeds and actions reflect the image of Jesus, the light of the world. We can speak with kindness and respect, we can value ourselves, we can tell the truth and we can use our talents. We can listen and talk, we can engage in dialogue and we can come to know people of different ethnic backgrounds, people with different lifestyles and sexual preferences, people of other faiths and people of no faith – and this will bring the light of Christ to illumine and change the world. Salt is a hidden but powerful influence. Light is a visible and revealing influence. Jesus tells us that we are not only to be the salt of the earth but also the light of the world. We are called to make a tangible impact on the world around us. Does our life make a difference? It should. Jesus said we are to be salt and light. Does our life make a difference? It can, if we surrender ourselves to Christ. Does our life make a difference? If we live for Him, it will!
God Bless You,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We heard Jesus teaching on the mountain and his eightfold path of happiness. We call it beatitudes. I believe beatitudes are stair ways to heaven. The Beatitudes teach us how to become more like God, how to reflect the goodness and beauty and truth in the heart of God, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”: this beatitude is not praising economic poverty but poverty in spirit which is being dependent on God for everything. Poor in spirit is a state of life that Adam and Eve had before they sinned. It is a state where we trust completely on God.
“Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted”: we normally understand this mourning as mourning for our sins and the sins for others, so it praises repentance. We mourn for our sins and the sins of others because they are an offense against God. It really means God will be at your side. Blessed are you if you mourn your sins and the sins of others, God will be by your side to console you.
“Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the land”: the meek are not those who lie down under a beating but those who have the goodwill to change a bad situation into better. They do not use violence because they do not return evil for evil. The meek will inherit the land, but not any land on earth that might be taken over by force and violence; instead they will inherit the Promised Land of Heaven.
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied”: those who are righteous are in right relationship with God. We could say they are holy. Whenever there is some social situation established on a false foundation it is not reflecting the beauty and truth and goodness of God. We hunger and thirst for these false situations to be rectified and justified because we are concerned not only with our personal relationship with God but we want the best for all people. God wants to bless us not only as individuals but wants to bless society to reflect more the heart of God. Therefore when there is anything ungodly in society, such as abortion, we hunger and thirst for righteousness.
“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy”: we all stand in need of God’s mercy but instead of waiting for God to be merciful to us first this beatitude praises those who are merciful to others now. God is merciful and this beatitude praises those who act like God.
“Blessed are the clean of heart for they will see God”: the word “clean” used by Matthew is also used to describe the purifying rituals of the Jews, so a clean or pure heart is not just a heart free of impure thoughts but a heart that has been cleaned, consecrated, and made ready to receive God’s holiness. All worldly attachments have been removed from such a heart so it is ready to receive the presence of God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God”: Jesus, the Son of God, is called the Prince of Peace because he made peace between God and us through shedding his blood in sacrifice for us. We also are peacemakers when we try to bring people closer to God and in that sense we are sons of God.
“Blessed are those persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”: this beatitude praises those persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for the sake of Jesus.
So we could summarize Jesus’ teaching in this way: when we are poor in spirit we are aware of our sins and mourn for our sins. Therefore we know in our hearts that violence is not the way forward but being meek and gentle and so we hunger and thirst for righteousness when we see violence done to others. We do this in our own lives when we forgive those who hurt us. If we did not live our faith, are not pure in heart, we would not be happy. We always want to bring the peace of Jesus to the world even if others persecute us because giving in to pressure to follow the crowd will never bring us blessedness.
God Bless You,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
If the light goes out in our lives, Jesus can turn it on again.
Tourists were visiting the famous Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. While they were below ground in the giant cave, the lights went out. Among those trapped in the darkness were two children: an eight-year-old boy and his five-year-old sister. The situation was scary, especially for children. Suddenly the little girl began to cry. Then her eight-year-old brother was heard to say, “Don’t worry, Amy. There’s a man up there who knows how to turn the lights on again.” We heard in the Gospel Jesus beginning his public ministry. It was a fulfillment of the prophesy of the prophet Isaiah, “The people who live in darkness will see a great light. On those who live in the dark land of death, the light will shine.”
The prophet promised the people that great light would soon appear to take away the darkness and Jesus is that great light. There are times in our lives when the lights go out, leaving us standing in darkness like a frightened five-year-old. At times like this we need to know that there is someone up there who knows how to turn the lights on again. As we are approaching the super bowl I would like to tell you a story of a football player, Darryl Stingley. In the late 1970’s he was sitting on top of the pro football world as a wide receiver for the New England Patriots. Then one August afternoon, in a preseason game, he was viciously hit by safety Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders. Tatum’s bone-crushing smash left the 27-year-old athlete paralyzed from the chest down. Today he can use only one hand and gets around in an electric wheelchair. The light went out for Darryl Stingley that August afternoon. But Darryl never gave up. He knew there was someone up there who could turn the lights back on again. He believed the prophecy of Isaiah: “The people who live in darkness will see a great light. On those who live in the dark land of death the light will shine.” And when the light went on again for Darryl, it went on brighter than ever. Darryl is still confined to a wheelchair and unable to walk, but he has a whole new vision of himself and life. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Darryl insisted that in some ways his life is better now than it was before. “I had tunnel vision,” he said of his playing days with the Partiots. “All I wanted was to be the best athlete I could, and a lot of things were overlooked. Now I’ve come back to them.” Stingley was more explicit with a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He said that his tragedy had changed his life for the better in a surprising new way: “This is a rebirth for me. Not only physically but spiritually…I really have a lot more meaning and purpose to live for now than ever before.” Those are incredible worlds from a young man whose dreams of football stardom lie dead and buried in an electric wheelchair. But you hear the same kind of worlds from hundreds of other people who have gone through similar periods of darkness in their lives. When the lights went on again for them, they went on brighter than ever. And the same can be true for us. The death of a life-long spouse, an unexpected rejection by a loved one, a smashed dream of business success, the loss of good health – all of these things can throw our lives into temporary darkness. But when a tragedy like this strikes us, we need only remember Isaiah’s prophecy: “The people who live in darkness will see a great light. On those who live in the dark land of death the light will shine.” We need only remember the little boy in the cave, who told his frightened sister, “Don’t worry, Amy. There’s a man up there who knows how to turn the lights on again.” And when the lights go on again for us – as they surely will – we will find that they will go on brighter than ever.
Let’s close with the verse of a popular hymn written by Cardinal Newman. It describes his search for the right way to follow Jesus. He wrote it as a young man, returning by sea from Italy to his native England. While the boat was detained at Sicily, young Newman fell ill and nearly died. During his convalescence he wrote the following lines:
“Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home, lead thou me on; keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene, – one step enough for me.” In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God Bless You,