Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket. It is put on a lamp stand where it gives light to the whole house. Just so, your light should shine before others.
I think Jesus has this one all wrong. You see, I don’t really want to be a light, I want the light to shine on me. I want everyone to notice what a great guy I am, how well I have it all together. I want everyone to think I am a genius when I speak, to marvel at my poise and and to be in awe of my dashing good looks and fantastic hair. I want people to notice me, and so I put on a mask that I think everyone will like. I act cool and calm, but really, I still feel like a kid who can’t get his act together. Sure, I do all the right things, I show up to work on time and make sure I get the job done right, I pay my bills on time and shower every day, but in my mind, where it counts, I’m still just a kid. I’m a whiney brat who wants every toy in the store. I want everything to be about me, me, me. I want my kids to think about me, my parents to think about me, my wife to think about me. I honestly wish when I walked down the sidewalk that people would step out of the way just because I’m such a great guy. I’m annoyed in the grocery store when people won’t get out of my way, when they don’t notice how special I am.
More than this, I want my life to mean something, I want to be important, even if just to those close to me. I am scared of the truth, that I am really nobody at all. 10 years after I die, my children will only think of me once and a while, and the rest of the world will have forgotten I even existed. Soon after, I will simply be gone, it will be as if I were never here. I know, I’m kind depressing, I’m sorry.
I was driving to Santa Rosa last weekend, and I saw they had dedicated road or a bridge to some guy. I bet he was a great guy, loved and cared for by his family and friends, and is now just a name on a road. Buildings and cities named after people who are little remembered or cared for just a few years after their passing. Even as we look through history, little is left of those who have gone before us. I bet many of you have heard of Abraham Lincoln. Who was president before him? Who was president after? Time deletes us all.
But not everyone. Some still stand bright. Some turn their lives into lamps, to bright, shining rays of light that fill the world around them, a light that burns through the centuries. These people are so real, so normal, and yet so extraordinary that they are never forgotten. Real people, ordinary people. Yet they gave their lives to being a light, instead of shining the light on themselves.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, just another noble born, entitled kid, who gave it all up to become a monk. He poured himself out, and became a spiritual advisor to the whole world. I always loved stories of knights and princesses when I was a kid, before him, knights were little more than bloodthirsty mercenaries, but they listened to this humble monk, and with him was born the code of chivalry. Popes and princes would write him for advise, and he would put their letters on the stack with peasants, responding to everyone in turn.
St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and he wasn’t even Irish. He was dragged to Ireland as a slave, and forced to work menial labor. After escaping, he decided to come back a preach the Gospel to his captors.
St. Veronica, who’s only claim to fame was that she helped a criminal condemned to death wash his face.
St. Anthony of Padua, was a quiet monk that nobody ever noticed. During an ordination, it was realized no one had planned to give a homily, everyone thinking someone else was going to do it. In a panic, his prior forced Anthony to speak, not wanting to be embarrassed himself. He became a preaching legend, and St Francis put him in charge of teaching his friars.
St. Joseph was nobody. He was a poor refugee, even among his own family, he did not have enough clout to find a room for his pregnant wife. He was completely unknown and unseen his whole life.
St. Mary, a poor woman with the scandal of a unwed pregnancy constantly looming over her. Yet she is so devoted to others, that even when she finds out she is pregnant with God himself, he first thought is not to look after herself, but to trek through the desert to he pregnant cousin to help her out.
They are lights. They shine through the darkness, but they are real, ordinary people. St. Giana Molla, who gave her life for her unborn child, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, shunned by her family and people for her faith, St. Thomas More, just another politician, until he is called to stand for what is right, St. Cecilla, St. Agnes, who’s heroism is not forgotten millennia after their deaths, St Ignatius oaf Antioch, who begged his flock to not defend him so that he could prove his love through death,
And my current favorite, Blessed Chiara Badano, who was a sweet girl playing tennis when she realized her shoulder hurt. It was bone cancer. She refused painkillers, because she wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings. As her hair began to fall out, she would hold it up and say, “For you Jesus”. She would sit with her mother and they would plan her “wedding” together, her funeral. She wanted to be buried in a wedding dress, because she was going to our Lord. Her friends would come to comfort her, and would leave realizing they were the ones comforted, and that they needed her for more than she needed them. Thousands came to her funeral, she will be the first saint from my generation, she died in 1990 at 19 years old.
Lights, all of them, and never forgotten.
Don’t be afraid to follow them. Don’t be afraid to stand with them for Christ who is love itself. I know you will get home and not feel like praying tonight, pray anyways. I know someone will tick you off or be cruel to you, be holy anyways. I know there is work to do and the tasks of everyday life are piling up around you, make time anyways. I know you are busy, and I know what you are doing is important.
But it’s not THE important thing, and you know it.
Don’t be afraid to make our Lord the point of your life. Don’t be afraid to pray before going to work and at work, to share your faith with your friends and colleagues, don’t be afraid to as the Lord’s help when you go fishing, or when you clean your house. Don’t be afraid to let Jesus in to you whole life.
For in the end, if we are really be a light to the world, not only can we not cover ourselves up with fear, selfishness and insecurity, but we must also always remember that we are not, in fact, the light at all, but that we only truly shine bright when it is Christ that is shining through us.