In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
When we describe someone as bright, we usually mean that this person is intelligent and smart and likely to do well in life. What is more, someone bright is assumed to be popular with people and distinguished from the crowd.
But the people who Jesus just pointed out in the crowd of followers in his teaching on the hill are not the ones who qualify as bright. In the same way, the metaphor of light in reference to them would have seemed strange, if not ludicrous, to Jesus’ original audience.
And honestly, the qualities described by Jesus in the beatitudes would certainly not attract a lot of admirers in our society today.
Just take the first beatitude, for example. “Poor in spirit” simply means “poverty-stricken in spiritual things” – the simple-minded, the untalented, the religiously unsophisticated. This is for sure not someone we would readily consider as being bright, blessed and having a “good life”.
How is it that this not-so-promising bunch of religiously and socially marginalized people are so much better off that they are promised the kingdom of heaven? What allows themto cast light on some part of the world and the people that live there? It is through the loving, accepting, affirming presence of Jesus Christ, who freely welcomes, receives, and gives light to those who come to him with empty hands and hungry hearts. The indwelling light of Christ chases their darkness and they become lights themselves (Eph 5:8). Like a city on a hilltop that is visible from far away, the glow of their life illuminates a dark world and serves as reference and guide to the people who live in it.
Questions to Ponder:
1. Based on the beatitudes (Mt. 5:1-11), how bright is your light shining?
2. Of the eight qualities that describe Jesus’ followers in the beatitudes, which one do you long for most in your life?
Prayer of Response:
Lord, contrary to what I often think, serving you is not an upward and outward journey, but one that takes me inward and downward to my own dark places on which you shine your life-giving light. Thank you that through your light in me, you make the good life accessible for everyone.
—Submitted by Gudrun Reeves
Gudrun lives in a little French village perched on a mountain just outside of Grenoble. There she lets her little light shine working in Champfleuri, a Christian retreat center. The beatitude she most longs for? Probably “Less of me so that there is more of God and his rule (Mt 5:3 MSG).
(Featured photo of night scene — photo credit: https://www.luberon-sud-tourisme.fr/les-villages-du-luberon/grambois/)