Light of the World
The people at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy had been in exile. It was an experience of darkness – separated from their land, their Temple, and therefore to some degree their religious observances.
Surprisingly they were “put on trial” for their strict observance of the Law because they had missed the point. In the trial, the example used was fasting – while they attempted strict observance of the Law to please God, at the same time, they failed to please God because they were not compassionate. Ironically, they afflicted themselves while neglecting to care for others who were afflicted.
Fasting is not an end or goal in itself. It is intended as a means to make space for God – and for one’s neighbor. Fasting enables the comfortable to share the lot of the hungry, and then in their experience of hunger to look for God who is the real source of life and nourishment – that is, to remember that food alone is not sufficient to have life. Fasting is a way to make time and resources available for the works of compassion.
Like fasting, we could argue, that light itself has no value. But when a light shines in darkness, then it has meaning. When it is placed prominently, it illuminates the darkness.
So Jesus says to His disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Mt.5:14). He calls us to our true identity, to fulfill the purpose for which we are sent. God has chosen us to be the light that the world needs. Interesting who He picks, eh? Paul was humbled because he had no great vocabulary or education, but God chose him. Jeremiah thought he was too young, Isaiah thought he was too sinful, and so did Peter.
Paul says God chose the foolish to shame the wise; God chooses the weak to shame the strong; God choose the lowly to reduce those who “think they’re something.”
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss. And God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. We are still living in darkness and God is inviting us to renew creation by being light in the world. When we l ive by these words, we help to recreate the universe. Light breaks forth in the darkness. Out wounds are healed and the power and compassion of God shine through us.
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