The winter serves as a stark reminder that there are so many of our brothers and sisters in great need. The cold, bitter nights remind us that so many are homeless, lacking shelter and a warm bed to sleep in. The frozen tundra reminds us that many go hungry as the ground sleeps until spring and the next harvest. The barrenness of our surroundings speaks to us of the barrenness of some people’s lives, as they struggle with life’s uncertainties and upheavals.
There are so many people who live and wait in darkness, so many who struggle just to get through the day, so many who have lost their “zest” waiting for change. The first reading this weekend from Isaiah reminds us that we need to care for those in need, to be more than just bystanders, and to stop thinking that they are someone else’s problem, not ours. Isaiah challenges us to step out of our complacency, go way beyond mere care and concern, and be moved into action.
We have all heard the expression, “One’s deeds speak louder than words,” it is this ideal that Isaiah is talking about. The actions we choose to take have a greater impact than mere words alone. These actions are what that motivate others. When we set our noble intentions into motion, we become the catalyst for change. We become the light that penetrates the darkness. We stand out like a lighthouse in the midst of the storm, serving as a welcoming beacon to those in distress.
In the Gospel, Jesus echoes what Isaiah is telling us, but He also compares us to salt, telling us we “are the salt of the earth.” This, simply stated, means we have the inner ability to affect others. Just as salt ads flavor to food, we, too, bring “flavor” into our world. This “salt” is our enthusiasm, our desire to improve the circumstances of others, to bring an end to oppression, to be the change. But He warns us that like salt, which can lose its flavor, rendering it ineffective and useless, we too can lose our zeal. We can allow ourselves to become jaded, bitter, and rather than be the change the world needs, we become complacent, or worst yet, part of the oppression.
Jesus also reminds us that we are light, and that this light needs to shine brightly for all to see. We all have an inner spark which is fanned by the Holy Spirit, but ultimately, the choice to allow it to grow and glow more brightly is up to us. If we choose to hide our light from the world, we may feel safe and secure, but what of that person who just needed our smile and reassurance. Too often we hide our light behind the wall of our fears or even our frustration. We buy into the belief that we really cannot make a difference, we are just one person, and how can I even begin to dream of making a difference.
Luckily for the world, so many unexpected miracles and changes were born from the most humble of beginnings. Mother Theresa is one that comes to mind — she was small in stature and lacked the resources to make the changes her world so desperately needed — yet this very obvious fact alluded her. Beginning with one person at a time, her small acts of kindness and dogged perseverance moved others to do the same, setting a light way up high that has yet to be extinguished.
Malala Yousafzai, though only 11, stood up against the oppression of her country. She fought for the rights of women to be educated. Malala still fights for them today even after receiving life threatening wounds and continued death threats. Her act of bravery and conviction made the world take notice, shedding “light” on the plight of so many who remain in her country.
There are countless other similar stories, known and unknown, that serve as examples of what Isaiah and Jesus are challenging us to do. It is the actions we take and where we decide to let our light shine, which can lead others out of the darkness. When we choose to shine brightly, we also help others see where there is necessity and what needs to be done. In the darkness we cannot see discord, we cannot distinguish between friend or foe, and the troubles of our world remain hidden, allowed to fester and grow.
We must place our light upon the lamp stand so that all can see. We must serve as guiding lights for others, not only for those who are less fortunate, but also so others can recognize the need as well. It is by the light of our actions and deeds that the Kingdom can be known. Like the moth drawn to the light, so too will others be drawn to ours, and together we can all become a beacon that shines brightly reaching even into the darkest corners of the world.
Do you dare to let your light shine? Go out and add a zest to the world and let your light shine undaunted for all to see. Be the light!
Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Fall River and works for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.
Email her at email@example.com