The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (5:14-19)
Nothing attracts others to God like people who are genuinely faithful to God and to His commandments. In fact, it is sometimes said that people have no problem with Jesus but that they have a problem with the followers of Jesus whom they’ve encountered. In today’s gospel passage the Lord Jesus, the light of the universe is reminding His disciples that they are called to be the light of the world. He tells them not to hide their light and keep it away from men.
How do we as disciples and followers of Jesus, fulfill this calling to be the light of the world? It starts by our obedience to the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ. The Lord says to us “If you love me, obey my commandments.” And in the process of trusting God and obeying His commandments, we demonstrate our love for Him. This genuine love isn’t simply with the lips but with the heart. Without obedience to the commandments of God and the teachings of the Son of God, there can be very little progress in our spiritual life. It is a prerequisite of the faith.
When we obey the Lord, we are surprised to find that we are drawn closer and closer to the divine nature of the Lord Himself. It makes sense that as we follow God, we become more and more God-like. We draw near to the Light and we take light from the Light that is never overtaken by night. Each and every Christian is like a candle that does not fulfill it’s purpose unless it is on fire for God. If the candle is far away from the source, the flame, it is practically useless. When the candle comes near to the heat, it comes to life, it not only benefits itself by finding meaning and purpose for it’s existence, it greatly benefits others as well. In the sayings of the desert fathers we find this story…
Abba (Father) Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can say, I do my little office, I read my psalms, I fast a little bit, I pray and I meditate, I live in peace with others as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. Tell me, Father, what else, what more can I do?” Then the old man, Father Joseph, stood up, stretched out his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire, and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
My brothers and sisters, we are the candles! Each one of us was excited when the Holy Fire came to our church and we passed it carefully to one another. But the Lord asks all of His disciples to pass the fire and the light of the Christian teaching and way of life to those around us. We don’t have to do this by being preachy. People don’t like preachy, but people swarm to genuine warmth, and love. This genuine love comes by the grace of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, when we engage in the struggle and choose to live holy lives.
When we struggle to obey Christ and to become holy, the Holy Spirit visits us and transforms each one of us so that we become light-bearers. When this happens people are affected and transformed by us since we are vessels of the Holy Spirit. This not only saves us, but it makes us useful to others and their salvation. It allows others to know God through us. It allows God to become incarnate and made a tangible reality for those who struggle to know God otherwise. When the people hear about a living saint, they flock to that individual from all over the world. Why? Because in the presence of the saint, they will come tangibly closer to the grace of God.
We come to God and struggle to know Him, not in order to gain any special gifts from Him or that others might think of us as special. We struggle to know God because we love Him and desire to know Him more fully, just as a man longs to go deeper in his relationship with his wife. In a healthy marriage, the husband doesn’t get bored with the wife, and vice-versa. Each one is courting the other and desires to draw the other one closer. The marriage is profound and magical even when the two are simply in each others presence. This is ultimately what prayer is about, being in the presence of God. Uniting with God through love. But the prerequisite to uniting with God is a life of obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. This life allows our life to be changed, it allows us to be transfigured by the Holy Spirit and through this we become like the city set on a hill. As St. Seraphim of Sarov says “Acquire the Holy Spirit and a thousand around you shall be saved.” Glory be to God forever AMEN.