Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr. Joe Tedesco

9 February 2020

Isaiah 58: 7-10, 1 Cor 2:1-5, Matt. 5: 13-16

Jesus just called his disciples to follow him and now in the gospel today he gives them their instructions. This is Jesus’ teaching from the Beatitudes which is truly a great word of hope, to the practical action of helping people in need. So now we are confronted with the way we are to live this new reality of ours. We recalled our baptism in the beginning of Mass. The key reality for Christians: the initiation into Christ and into the Church to become Christ for others.

Jesus uses two familiar metaphors that are truly helpful in our quest for understanding the challenge of our journey of being his disciples, and that always means being on Mission.

Who among us puts salt and pepper on their food, even before you taste it? I saw a cartoon a couple of weeks ago, the title was “Pepper and Salt.” A guy was ordering at a food counter and the clerk asks, “Would you like fries with that?” So, we get this metaphor. The world needs us to give the right zest to life, and really no one else can but Jesus and his disciples.

Then there is the image of light. What would we do without light? There would be no life!!!

The contrast of course, is darkness. And that has many ways to be a metaphor as well. We know key passages of darkness that underline the ethical dualism of light and darkness. “The people in darkness have seen a great light.” “The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” Another famous use of darkness is the poem of John of the Cross. It starts – “One dark night when all was still in my house.” St. John was attracted to a dark night where he found peace and quiet. He is talking about the peace within where we can discover God, where God can be revealed to you. It’s coming to the light within that is the journey we are invited into by God. Christ is our light. Christ is within us.

Jesus says “be this light,” so do we help people find God, are we the light, do we reveal God to others by our lives? Are we an inspiration? Do we light up our world?

Isaiah helps us here to answer the question. He says we need to start with our moral values. That is to respond to the needs of others. The practical acts of justice and mercy. This takes courage to really understand it’s not to promote oneself. But to do justice, be that witness to Christ and all of his values. Isaiah says it, remove oppression, satisfy the afflicted, then a just society can emerge. Wow, do we need this now!!!! Come on, who will stand up for the truth and right, who will stand up for the good of the community and not be just interested in self – promotion? It must be us, disciples of Jesus. Things are getting worse everywhere in the world. We can turn it around by living with the power of the Spirit. Jesus gave us his Spirit.

Isaiah says this startling word. Your wound will be healed. Does he mean the wound of the human situation of evil in the world? We see it all over, greed, disregard for those in need, that kind of thinking and behavior distorts our life. We no longer are living as disciples. But if we do, he says vindication will go before you and the glory of the Lord will protect you, be with you.
Living this way, we come into the right relationship with God in Christ.

So, we are getting to the point, this moral orientation has meaning, it is essential. If we call ourselves Christians. We are to influence the world by our good actions toward others. We model the values of Christ to the world.
Who do you admire?? Who are your heroes? Those who gave of themselves for others. We call them martyrs- Witnesses to the truth of Christ. Who are our modern martyrs? All those who are persecuted for wanting justice, who seek the truth.

What is most forceful is not words but acts of Spirit and Power. It takes a life of deep faith rooted in a personal relationship with God, lived in community, with attentive listening to the Word of God, formed by the Eucharist, all this expressed in a life of faith, hope and love. Those virtues that express our life with God.

We know this life. This is our life. We belong to Christ. We have our relationship with Him. We seek always to follow the inspirations of the Spirit. To follow through with acts of love for others. A real shift in our culture is needed and who else will spearhead this shift ? But you and me. So, the question that comes up for me is: are we living as authentic Christians? Do we see ourselves, our identity in light of Jesus? Have we shaped our life with Him? Are we his disciples?

It’s always an examination of conscience. Is our behavior in-line with our faith? Are we his disciples? The Spirit life unfolds in our hearts, our inmost self. It’s there that our desires and decisions take shape. It is there that we should be able to recognize the authenticity of our Christian identity. We are always about going deeper and discovering that we are called to be Christ in the world, that Christ lives in us and we bring Christ to life by who we are and what we do. Just like Salt and Light – we can through our actions, sustain life. The scriptures today connect caring for one another with God’s care for us. Fostering this value, we emulate God.

The words that Jesus promises us in John’s gospel came to mind for me, and we need to hear it to find that consolation that helps us to know our efforts are not in vain as we navigate this journey to be Christ. He said to his disciples, “ Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love them, we will come to them and make our home with them.” That’s where Jesus is inviting us to go.

So then let us follow Him and truly be a light for others.