Fr Paolo Consonni, MCCJ
O’Clarim 05 Sunday OT year A
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:14-16).
In my early twenties I used to climb mountains. One summer, three friends and I planned a five-day trek to a well-known but distant mountain which involved hiking for several days being entirely self-sufficient by carrying everything needed in our backpacks. We carefully studied a map of the area and highlighted the few refuge cabins (mountain huts) along the way, planning to sleep there to avoid the biting cold of high-altitude nights.
The trek was beautiful but gruelling. We needed to hike more than 10 hours a day in order to reach a cabin before nightfall. At the end of the last day, we were hungry and exhausted and the chilly evening was fast approaching. We were still deep in the mountains, far from any human settlement and unable to locate the mountain cabin where we planned to spend the night. We were lost. The tension was palpable while we kept scanning the surrounding while silently dragging our feet due to exhaustion. Darkness fell but still no sign of the cabin. We became resigned to the idea of spending the night in the cold.
Unexpectedly, when we stopped to get our torches ready, we spotted a faint light on the other side of the valley. We double checked our maps and we realized that we were on the wrong side of the mountain, and that the light was coming indeed from the refuge cabin we were looking for: some other climbers must have got there before us and lit up the place. The cabin was still one hour away, but we decided nevertheless to make one last effort to reach it, to warm our meal and have a good warm night’s sleep.
That light renewed our energies. Yes, we were tired, but now we knew where to go, we knew we were not lost. When we finally reached the cabin, we were overjoyed, and shared our food and the warmth of the fire with our fellow climbers before collapsing into our sleeping bags for a good rest, ready to face the following day the last stretch of the trek leading us home.
Whenever I read this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 5:13-16), where Jesus is using the metaphors of the city on the hill and of the lamp on the lampstand to describe the Church, I vividly remember this trekking experience.
The scandals which have scarred the past history of the Church and, unfortunately, even to the present time, coupled with the awareness of our own fragility and weakness, do not give credence to the illusion that the Church is always a refulgent bright light in the darkness surrounding the outside world. We have that darkness within ourselves too. More often, the Church is more like the faint light of the mountain cabin we spotted during our climbing. The Church’s light might be feeble, yet it must shine for people who need it!
We Christians do not shine of our own light. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12), Jesus said. “Fulget Ecclesia non suo sed Christi lumine”: the Church shines not with its own light but with that of the Risen Christ, affirmed St. Ambrose and many other Fathers of the Church.
Every act of faith and charity we do as members of the Church, and any goodness we offer to the human family comes from God, whose Grace precedes and inspires us, sustains us and gives us strength to continue our good works for the greater Glory of God. As saint Paul would say: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:31).
We are not the light. But, as in the case of the other climbers who lit the lamps which led us to safety, how important it is that we let our little faith shine in the daily circumstances of our life, faint and fragile as this faith might be! We have no idea how our small efforts, which we might think are irrelevant and unnoticed, if sustained by God’s grace, can give comfort, direction and hope to our fellow brothers and sisters who, like me, are often lost and weary. Remember, it’s not about boasting regarding our goodness: it’s just matter of sharing instead God’s goodness, forgiveness and mercy that we ourself daily receive.