Until I reflected on the scripture readings for today, I never thought much about our tendency to control light. There isn’t too much we can do about the outside light, but within the confines of our homes and buildings we have our controls in place. We have our shades, our dimmers and our three-way bulbs. Even with our old oil lamps the flame could be raised or lowered. We can use a high watt or a low watt bulb. We can tint the light to suit our purposes. We use our light in so many ways to create a desired atmosphere.
In Matthew’s Gospel today, we meet Jesus urging us to let our light shine. He is telling us that the dimmed or hidden light in our lives is of little or no use. The light must give light to the whole house. The reason, Jesus tells us, why our light must shine is so that others can see the good works and give glory, not to us, but to God. Jesus is telling us that this is the atmosphere we are to create, and only the full beams will do it.
Today the excerpt from Isaiah also associates the light with the lifestyle. The people have been moaning and groaning that their fasts and prayers are not having the desired results. With all these ritual works, they still cannot bend God to their vision. The prophet reminds them that if they live a certain way, then the light will shine from their darkness and their gloom will become like midday. He spells out clearly the kind of lifestyle that will generate the light – bestowing bread on the hungry, lifting up those who are oppressed and afflicted, removing oppression from their society. This is the atmosphere Isaiah says it is necessary to create, and in that atmosphere the light will be radiant.
Now, full beams can be blinding and our natural tendency is to shield the eyes and turn away. So it is tempting to reach for the dimmer to create a more subdued effect. We know of many people down the centuries, whose light, fueled by their lives, was radiant and illuminated all around them. They could do this because they let go of the controls and adjusted their vision to the radiance of God. The light of the true disciple does not reflect back on herself. The true disciple is more like the lamp-stand, through whose living the radiance of God is ever on full beam.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP