It is providential that this Sunday’s Gospel reading has similar themes as the Presentation of the Lord from last week. Both Gospels speak of the “light of the world/revealed to the nations.” Last week, Simeon proclaims the Christ child to be the lumen gentium – the light of the nations. And today, the adult Christ says to his disciples that they “are the light of the world.” But how?
The Gospel opens with this verse, “Jesus said to his disciples.” He does not say this to everyone or to anyone. He says it to his disciples. They are his followers. Today, that means those who are baptized. At baptism, the Church gives a baptismal candle, whose flame comes from the Paschal Candle, with the words “receive the light of Christ.” This is not accidental or inconsequential. The Church teaches that every baptized person “is to walk always as a child of the light” and to “keep the flame of faith alive” in their heart. Why? So that they may rush out to meet the Lord when he comes.” Being the light of the world means that we must first understand whose light we have. The light we have is not our own – it is Christ’s. We are living candles, lanterns, within whom the Light of the Nations dwells.
Light allows us to see what is around us. Light is bold and does not shy from the darkness. On the contrary, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” The Christian’s duty is to proclaim the Gospel boldly, to show others the darkness of sin so as to bring them into the “light of life” – the Lord Jesus.
Exemplifying this bold proclamation is St Paul whom we hear of in our Second Reading. Paul admits he came to the Corinthians “in weakness and fear and much trembling.” And yet, what does he proclaim? “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Paul has both humility and boldness because the light of Christ lets us see the truth and accept it boldly. We see our sinfulness and inadequacies, and yet we see the power of Christ and the cross. Although it is possible for us to snuff the flame of faith through sin, the Lord waits for us to rekindle the flame in the sacrament of penance. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Romans 5:20).
The greatest way for the light of the world to radiate from us is to proclaim this same “power of God” who conquered sin and death – Jesus Christ crucified and risen. That way, we may be living candles bearing the light of Christ so that we may say with Paul that “it is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Joseph Yuson – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta