Bulletin: February 5, 2023
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings from Isaiah and Matthew evoke the powerful metaphor of light as an image of the community gathered by God. Jesus speaks of his followers as “light of the world”: they are not the source of light, but a mirror reflecting the brightness of God. This light does not call attention to itself, but enables beauty to be revealed and celebrated, and sinfulness to be exposed and healed. The light of this community is not primarily for itself, but fulfills its purpose when it shines upon the world. The light that we the Church bring to our world can be hidden by “bushels” sometimes imposed by others and sometimes of our own making. Our lights may flicker and die under stress. What might sustain the brightness of our own small light? Our ongoing practices of community prayer, discernment, and action allow God to illumine our Church, day by day.
LEARNING HOW TO BE CHURCH
Following last week’s passage from Matthew with the Beatitudes, today we continue Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with his images of salt, light, and a city. Jesus moves from describing the core identity of the community he has gathered to considering its impact on the world. He wanted his community not just to claim its identity, but to live it out. He wanted his community to journey with him, to fully learn what this might mean.
For us, being salt for others may mean engaging and enriching the lives of our neighbors. Being light may mean illuminating and addressing the world’s systems that sustain social sins of violence, racism, and vast inequalities of wealth and opportunity. Being a city set high may mean holding to high standards of transparency, respect, and care for each other. Like Jesus’ first followers, we are invited to travel the difficult and joy-filled road of learning and re-learning how to be the Church.
Saint Paul, in today’s passage from First Corinthians, admits he is not a salesman. He did not come to Corinth with a sales pitch, with skilled rhetoric and worldly wisdom. Paul says that he simply came to speak of Christ crucified. For Paul, the cross is God’s primary self-revelation, and the whole life of following Christ is marked by it. Paul describes this cross-shaped ministry by how he first preached it: with humility and fear. He was a messenger who looked weak by the standards of society, in order that the Spirit might break through to his listeners.
We may know or have read of those who spoke or lived with a cross-shaped presence. Perhaps a missionary who humbly served a community while preaching Christ. Or a group of protesters against injustice, who faced violent resistance with dignity and persistence. They open a space for the Spirit to transform hearts. Paul suggests that making ourselves vulnerable makes love possible.