Isaiah S8: Your light will rise in the darkness
This exhortation to the works of
love comes from the last, post-exilic section of the Rook or Isaiah.
It is the second half of a contrast
opposing these genuine works of mercy to the mere religiosity of observing fasts and Sabbaths -quite a useful reminder, at a time when one may be considering Lenten resolutions, that the kernel of the resolutions should not be to be more religious but more loving and more human, in the sense of being alive and open to every human need and response.
Doing penance, says the biblical writer, does not consist in beating the breast and apologising but in positively showing love; it is by this that "your wound will be quickly healed over", and because of this that the Lord promises his supporting presence.
The connection with the Gospel reading is the image of light. In iiiuli the connection of this image or Oh the glory of the Lord (always pictured in terms of a shining, brilliant light) may be translated into New Testament terms; the glory of the Lord is present when we do these works of love because it is only by the presence of Christ and his Spirit that we do them.
1 Corinthian's 2: The power of the Spirit
Paul now develops his attack on the philosophers whose intellectual superiority, or rather intellectual self-satisfaction, is such an unsettling factor in the Corinthian cornmunity.All his arguments when he first brought them the Good News, he says, were simply about the Crucified Christ and demonstrations of the power of his Spirit. According to the Acts of the Apostles, of course, this is hardly surprising, because he came to Corinth front Athens, where he had tried to confront the philosophers with their own methods and had merely been laughed at (there is no Epistle to the Athenians in the collection!)
In preaching the message of
Christ there is no such thing as convincing the hearers by argument. A man must reel the attraction and be drawn by Christ. so that all the preacher or any fellow-Christian can do is present the Crucified Christ and the power of his Spirit, by actions. attitude, words and love.
And this is true at every level, not only in the initial presentation of Christ. but further: intellectual arguments about faithfulness, loyalty, virtue, have little power to draw. In the last analysis the deciding factor in my action is whether I am struck by the Cross of Christ and by his Spirit, overpowered and drawn by Christ. (1 Cor 1:1-5)
Matthew 5: The Salt of the Earth This saying about the Salt of the Earth is used by different evangelists in different contexts, by Mark as a warning against falling away. by Luke as an exhortation to count the cost of discipleship, and by Matthew to inspire the disciple \kith the sense of his vocation before he embarks upon the detailed prescriptions of the Sermon on the Mount.
Possibly Jesus himself used it in still a different sense, of the leavening or salting effect of his Message upon the world. Matthew's use, especially when this parable is doubled by the parable of the prominent Lamp, is perhaps the nearest to Jesus' own, for by living according to the Sermon on the Mount the disciple spreads the salt or light of the Good News of Christ.
One mieht think there is a contradicition between these two sayings and the later prohibitions of ostentation, not letting the left hand know what the right is giving, not praying or fasting so that men can see. It is a question of motive: it is one thing not to disguise our Christian practice and quite another to make a parade of it.