“You are the light of the world,” says Jesus to his disciples in today’s Gospel from St. Matthew. Whenever I read the “salt and light” passage from which that line comes, what plays through my mind is the Godspell version of that song. (I still remember every word to every song of that play, which I saw many performances of in my youth.)
In the Light of the World song, each of the statements – you are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth, you are the city of God – is followed by an admonition. One of the warnings that follows the line “you are the light of the world” is: “But the tallest candlestick ain’t much good without a wick.”
The tallest candlestick ain’t much good without a wick. If we who are Christians are to be the light of the world, there is only one wick for our candle and that is Jesus. This is something Paul understood well. In the second reading for today’s Mass, he tells the people of Corinth, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ.” And he makes smiliar statements elsewhere, such as when he told the Galatians, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
It seems pretty basic to say that if we are Christian disciples, Jesus must be our core. But I have heard things preached from preachers of various Christian traditions that don’t much sound like anything Jesus said and modeled. I dare say the same could be said for many of our actions.
And so I think we need to continually check ourselves, asking: Am I preaching Jesus? Is what I say and what do rooted in Jesus’ teachings? Do my words and deeds reflect that Jesus is the center of who I am in the world? Unless the answers to those questions is yes, it doesn’t matter how large our candle is – we won’t be the light of the world.