What It Means to Be the Light of the World

I mentioned earlier in the week that I attended two masses on Sunday – a mass at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Sunday morning and Catholic mass in my parish Sunday evening. I was reminded today of one of the images the minster who gave the homily at St. John’s (Rev. Dr. Heidi Joos) used in talking about Jesus’ telling his disciples that they were the light of the world.

Rev. Joos makes an annual trip to Nicaragua. She described to us how dark it gets that close to the equator when the sun sets – a complete darkness that makes it difficult to find one’s way back to one’s hotel. She talked about those needing to find their way clustering in groups around those few who remembered to carry flashlights, aware of the narrow circle of illumination the flashlight projected. I could easily picture in my mind a single person holding a flashlight, giving light to the others.

Later in her sermon, she paraphrased Jesus’ statement to his disciples as “Be a circle of brightness big enough for people to see my path in the dark… You are the light of the world.”

I thought it was a wonderful description of what we are called to be. A light in the darkness – not for the purpose of illuminating ourselves. Not a light that shines on us. Rather, a light that points to Jesus. A light that shows people the way. That is that we are called to be.

The Nicaragua flashlight image is a good one I think. Because it reminds us of something important that may help us from feeling discouraged when our efforts seem so small. Each light may only illuminate a narrow circle. But all of our lights together – well, just picture first a single person holding a flashlight and then imagine lots and lots of people each holding a flashlight. And watch how much illumination there is.