You are the Light of the World…A City Set on a Mountain Cannot be Hidden

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“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden” (Mt. 5:14) This is part of the famous, “You are the salt of the earth” passage in Matthew’s gospel. It is an admonition to the disciples, and to us who are followers of Jesus Christ, to influence the world with our words and our good deeds. We are challenged as Christians to preserve the faith to flavor the world with it on behalf of Jesus Christ. And we are to bring the light of faith into the dark corners of the world.

I remember a story told by Robert Fulgham in one of his books of essays about a Greek man by the name of Papadopoulos. He was a man of Crete who, as a child, witnessed the German invasion of his island during WWII. When the well-armed German paratroopers came, they were met by Cretan peasants and farmers wielding pitchforks and other farm tools. They were defending their villages, their farms, and their homes. For doing that, whole villages were destroyed along with the men, women and children in those villages. One would think that reconciliation between the Cretans and the Germans would never be possible after something like that happened. But Mr. Papadopoulos, in his adulthood, started a reconciliation center in his hometown for that very purpose. It was very successful and it has been a center for reconciliation for many people since then.

When Papadopoulos was a child he came across an accident site where a German motorcycle had crashed. He picked up a shard of glass off of the ground that had come from one of the mirrors and kept it in his pocket throughout his youth. He rounded it off by honing it on stones, and it fit in a small wallet he had. Every now and then he would take it out and play with it, directing the light of the sun into dark holes and corners to see what he could find there. Mr. Fulghum had attended a retreat at the Reconciliation Center once and on the last day of the retreat Mr. Papadopoulos gave a short talk after which he asked if anyone had any questions. Mr. Fulghum asked a question, a seemingly frivolous question: Mr. Papadopoulos, “What is the meaning of life?” To Fulgham’s surprise Papadopoulos paused for sometime, then answered the question. He took out that little mirror from his wallet. Yes, he still carried it around with him. He explained the story of how it came into his possession, then ended his response this way. “We are the mirror. It is our job to shine the light into the dark places in our lives and in our world.”

Is this not an echo of what Jesus has said to us in today’s passage? The Light of Christ has come into the world. He has shined his light on the darkness of sin and death and conquered those old enemies for us once and for all, forever. He has commanded us to bring that light to the worlds we live in today, that is, into our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and our neighborhoods. We have been given that light in and through our baptisms. It has been revealed to us in the scriptures. This is the light that Jesus wants us to be. We cannot hide it. We must be a beacon on the hill in the midst of the stormy darkness of this world. We are to be there to guide others home to Jesus. We are to do this not with our words alone, but more importantly by our deeds. “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (verse 16).

Jesus, you have called on us to be light to the world. Give us the faith, the hope, and the love to be able to do so with courage and effect. We pray this in your name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.