Fifth Sunday of the year Isaiah 58:7-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16 THE MORE we become like Christ, the more our actions are an expression of God's presence dwelling within us. Such actions speak not of ourselves, but the inner likeness of God from which they flow. For this reason Jesus calls his disciples to lives that give praise to the Father in Heaven (Mt 5:16).
Today's Old Testament reading invites us to become the bearers of God's Light. The prophet Isaiah was called to rebuild God's people, to open the doors to the new creation that the Messiah would inaugurate (cf:Is 61:7). This new creation stirs in us as we are drawn to the hungry, the homeless and the naked. The spirit of this new creation frees us from the clenched violence that can so easily make itself felt in our thoughts and words. Without God we are a burden, a yoke to ourselves and others. With God we let go of such a yoke.
The words of the prophet go far beyond an exhortation to good works. They call for lives to be so filled with the light of God that we ourselves become God's dawning light in the shadows of a sinful world. As we recognise our own hunger and poverty, God reaches through us to an impoverished world.
When Christ came into this world, the new creation was begun. As Jesus instructs his disciples he does not set goals far beyond their reach. He first tells them what his call has already achieved within them: "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world." Jesus is speaking far beyond standards of performance by which the disciples might be measured. Jesus is, in effect, telling us and his disciples that already he dwells within us as our Light, the presence giving saviour to all we are. God has no need of our deeds, great or small. What he longs for is that his light, hidden within us, should shine through everything we do or say. In this way the world is drawn to the Father. Jesus warns against the timid indifference that hides itself away. If we refuse the light entrusted to us, we extinguish that light and trample underfoot the savour of his presence.
Saint Paul lives the reality of Jesus' words. His preaching to the people of Corinth was not intended to draw attention to his own undoubted oratory or worldly wisdom. All that he proclaimed was not an expression of himself, but the power of God's spirit working through his ministry. When we allow our selfihness to be crucified with Christ, we cease to rely on the illusion that we have the power to save ourselves or anybody else. Then the power of God can raise up our vulnerability and begin to shine through the whole world.