Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Light Cannot Be Hidden - Homily Notes for the 5th Sunday in OT (A)

+ When I was on pilgrimage, I was blessed to go to the very place where Jesus spoke the Gospel we just heard; this Sermon on the Mount. The Mount is a beautiful hillside of beautiful flowers and chirping birds, all overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Above the hillside are larger hills and, during the time of Jesus, there were ten cities positioned atop those larger hills.

Those cities are important because, as Jesus spoke these words about how cities on mountains can’t be hidden, He likely would have been pointing to those larger hills and to those cities that sat upon them.

I mention this, not only because it is a cool tidbit, but also because by directing our gaze to those cities, Jesus was trying to make a point. What was His point?


Well, typically, when we hear, “You are the light of the world,” our tendency is to immediately hear a moral exhortation: something akin to: “Be the light,” or “Be obvious in your faith and charity,” or “Let it be seen” and so on.

But Jesus wasn’t simply giving us a moral exhortation.

What Jesus was giving … was our identity.

You ARE the light of the world.

This is why He points out those cities. Those cities already are on a mountain top and they actually cannot be hidden. They have been established. And at night, their placement provides light atop those hills.

So, Jesus wasn’t just saying, “You must be light.” He was saying you already are

You already have in your possession that baptismal candle at whose giving the priest said to you, “Receive the Light of Christ.” This is your identity as a Christian, as a disciple of Jesus, He who is the Light and who gives His Light to you at your baptism.

And what was that Light He gave to you at your baptism?

Jesus gave to you the light of Faith.

At your baptism, the priest exhorted the parents and godparents: “This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly…”


Once we have received our identity does Jesus riff on what we are then to do: don’t hide that light; don’t put it under a bushel basket; don’t hide. 

Do you remember what Adam and Eve did after they sinned?

They hid themselves.

So, no hiding. 

In fact, like those cities, you cannot be hidden now. It is impossible. Even if you try to hide yourself, the light that is within you will give you away! When it comes to spiritual hide and seek with God, it is impossible for you to remain hidden.


Having received this, hear now the last words of Jesus to us this morning. He says: “shine your light before others”—why? So that “they may… glorify your heavenly Father.”

The Light of Faith is never going to be simply a private thing. It is lived in the public square. This is not a matter of “imposing one’s beliefs” upon another. It is about believing that what you have been given, the Light of Faith, is truly a gift that betters the world—like a city on a hilltop that gives light in the night.

And that’s not simply a moral exhortation. 

What you do in the public square reveals who you are.

In fact, it isn't simply about revealing who we are, either. What we do is for the purpose that others may see and glorify your heavenly Father.”

What we do in the public square is not to advance our own agenda nor to defend ourselves and even less to make ourselves look good. When the Light of our Faith shines in the public square, it is given not for our benefit, but for the benefit of others—and, in particular, that they may know the glory of our heavenly Father.

And what is the glory of our heavenly Father? It is the Light of Jesus Christ, His Son..

St. Ignatius of Loyola summarized this when he said: We dedicate all of our thoughts words and actions to the greater glory of God.


So, remember your identity: You are light of the world.

Remember the quality of that identity: A city cannot be hidden.

And live the call of that identity: Shine that light ... so that they may glorify your heavenly Father.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.