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Being a good example…

Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary time year A 2014

candleA year ago  I visited a man who had just celebrated his hundredth birthday. He looked so happy and contented with his life. So I asked him to tell me his secrets to a long and a happy life. He said to me: ‘Mate I only have four secrets, good genes, good food, good doctor and good luck.’ That was a good one. But I believed that to really live the fullness of life we need to be  a good example too.  

To be a good example is one message we can learn from our gospel today. As we have heard in the gospel Jesus is urging us to be a good example to others by being the salt of the earth, the light of the world and to be a city built on a hill.

It is important to note first of all though that  our gospel today is a continuation of the sermon on the Mount. Before this gospel we heard Jesus preaching the Beatitudes- i.e. the qualities we have to embody and live out as  followers of Christ. But a Scripture Scholar, Francis Moloney warns us that if we focus only on the beatitudes, we may just be at ease with contented peacefulness or living in peace and harmony with one another, (which is important of course), and stop there without doing anything else, or without bearing fruits ourselves. (Francis Moloney Commentary [5th Sunday Ordinary time year A]) As Christians there is much more expected of us.

As Christians then,  we need both qualities of the kingdom and fruits of those qualities to be a big part of our Christian life. That’s why Jesus didn’t stop on the beatitudes. He went on to commission us, as we heard in our gospel today,  to be a good example by taking on the vocation and the mission to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world and to be a city built on a hill.

We are the salt of the earth. As salt we contribute giving taste to the world. Salt is hardly visible in our  food but it creates so much difference in taste and in flavour. So are we. We are not to aim to be in the  limelight, nor our presence need be acknowledged. We just have to stand out by giving taste and flavour in the world. We can do this by showing to all that there is another alternative, and a good one, to the illusory happiness brought about by material things and worldly possessions.  We can  give taste and flavour in the world by being a person of faith and of hope, by proudly standing up for our faith in our world, in the society we lived in. It is  important to be a person of faith because as Pope Francis in his encyclical letter, Lumen fidei (The Light of Faith), taught: ‘Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters.’ (Lumen fidei 54). In other words, with faith, we can clearly see the inner dignity and value of each person as the image and likeness of God, thus, worthy of our respect and appreciation.

Jesus also calls us to be the light of the world. This doesn’t mean we claim to be the light. We only have one light, Christ himself, and we are only sharing in his light, so being the light of the world means that as Christians we radiate the light of Christ to the world. This means we are  to uphold and promote the gospel of Christ and the values of the Kingdom of God and live it out in our lives everyday wherever we go, and whatever we do. The prophet Isaiah in our first reading has some practical hints for us how to be light to others. The Prophet wrote: ‘Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin…then your light will shine like the dawn.’ Then he continued: ‘If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, if you give bread to the hungry and relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness.’ In other words, to be light to the world is to touch other people’s lives by way of enabling them to see the light of Christ through us, through our care and concern for them. To be light to the world is to welcome others as Christ himself coming to us. Why are we turning away boats of Asylum seekers, or towing them away from this  our so-called lucky country?

Jesus also invites us to be a city built on a hill. This doesn’t mean we are to live aloof and be looked up so highly by others. Rather this means we are stand up for Christ and for his message of the kingdom, no matter what it takes.  But we can realize this if we learn from the way St Paul stood up for Christ. In our second reading today, he recalled that what he was preaching was not what he knew about Jesus (intellectually) but on a more personal level, and that is the realization that Christ has been crucified for our sins and died for us. Christ is so real in St Paul’s life, that he could face whatever odds because of ‘Christ who lives in me and strengthens me’ as  would say. Jesus also adds that as a city built on a hill we cannot remain hidden. This means that we must not remain hiding in our own comfort zones. Rather we go out and share to others the beauty of the faith, the beauty of God, the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth. This means we are to stand up and lead others to God, encourage others to follow the road to heaven. And we can simply do this by our way of life- as we work like Christ, as we work with Christ and as we endeavor to be with Christ.

So as we continue our celebration of the mass today, let us ask ourselves: What steps or moves are we taking to be a good example to others as the salt of the earth, the light of the world and as a city built on a hill?

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