For some weeks now, we have been reflecting on the different aspects of the theme of light. As a person that shines a torch into a dark room, each week reveals something new about the effects of the light of God on human existence. Today, the readings teach us how charitable living becomes a light for all to see the goodness of God.
In the first reading, the good man is one that genuinely cares for the needs of others. As Christians, we must show genuine concern for others in a world where selfishness and greed constitute the order of the day. The psalm takes up this theme and expands upon it. The good man is a light in the darkness for everyone to see. His actions attract others to see God’s goodness and prompt others to emulate them. As Psalm 125: 1 says, such a person has an unshakable faith in God like mount Zion.
The past week was replete with numerous challenges faced in our country. There were very long queues at the petrol stations. The petrol attendants had a field day in determining the price and to whom they would sell. There were long queues at the local government offices for the PVCs that either mysteriously disappeared or the officials delayed their release until it was time to close, or even simply did not attend to many who spent hours waiting to collect their cards. They argued that they were overwhelmed by the crowd, but did they not know, from the data with them that they needed more personnel to attend to the people? Did the crowd prevent them from creating effective means of distribution? People found it difficult to collect their money from the banks. The ensuing tension led to fights at the ATM stalls and banking halls. The network of many banks simply failed. While the policymakers may have their fair share of the blame, what can we say about the uncharitable behaviour of some banking officials that hid bundles of the redesigned notes under the old notes stored in the vaults? What about branches that failed to release 80% of their allocation from the Central Bank to the people? Are these uncharitable acts carried out by non-Christians alone?
One of the greatest gifts that we can give to others in society is to do our work well. By this, we make life easier for others and ourselves. Why blame the government for something you have refused to do for yourself because of greed? If we understand that a policy has been designed to make life easier, we need to do our bit to see that it is properly implemented. We need to understand that healing takes time. Change and improvement take time. Development cannot be achieved in a day, but it starts with a single step in the right direction. The challenge is that we are often impatient to allow anything to happen. Always in a hurry, always thinking about the self. Always want to do things in our own way, so the constituted authority bears the bad name. This worsens when we begin to brazenly, yet ignorantly, quote laws to justify our selfishness.
The message of Christ is often seen as too hard or too demanding today. People want the easy way out of things. They want to do whatever they like under the guise of freedom of speech and expression. There is a subtle danger that lurks in the corner. In his book The Rite, Matthew Bagglio identifies the slogan “do what you will” as the most damaging weapon in the arsenal of the evil one. It is easy to fall under the spell of doing whatever one wants because we are free. This has often resulted in destructive tendencies that people praise in the lives of many influencers today: immoral dressing, drunkenness, drug abuse, crimes, and even dabbling in the occult. They praise them as “modern ways of living”. The danger here is that doing whatever you want is Satan’s way of getting you to go against the will of God. You influence others with your bad example, and they see you, and copy you, thinking you are worth following. The worst part is that it is the fruit of pride that makes you rebel, like Satan, against the goodness of God. Those who choose this lifestyle rely on their abilities and exclude God from their hearts. One may come to Church, be a respectable member of the community, and even care for others, yet the person’s heart may be far from God because he has failed to allow the will of God to take root in his life. Doing whatever one wants makes such a person turn a blind eye to what it means to be a Christian: seeking to do the will of God. We must rely on the power of God that has been manifested in the resurrection of Christ. Any other power is futile.
Jesus teaches that we are salt and light in today’s Gospel. Salt was of great value in the ancient world. It was so highly valued that it was even used to pay wages. That is where the word salary draws its origin. The Romans used to say: “There is nothing more useful than the sun and salt (Nil utilius sole et sale). In our time, salt is still very useful. Salt purifies. As Christians, Jesus wants us to be models of purity like salt. We also use salt to preserve food. This is because it kills the microbes that make decay possible. Similarly, our lives as Christians must be worth emulating because we preserve peace and harmony wherever we go. Salt gives taste to food. Since the Holy Spirit gives flavour to our Christian lives, a life without the Spirit is without meaning or purpose. In the same way, Christians are the light of the world. Jesus wants us to inspire others to be good. The Christian life is not to be hidden but laid open for all to see. To be shared with all and proclaimed publicly to all. Like light, our lives should also guide others and drive away fear. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. As Christians, let us stop wasting time by criticizing others and excusing ourselves that is not our responsibility. It is our responsibility to work for the good of everyone even if we do not stand to be the primary beneficiaries. Let us be part of the transformation process wherever we go: at home, at work and even within our parish community. Brighten other peoples’ lives with your good work. That way you contribute to brightening the world.