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August 1979

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5.16)

If you are a believer you have a function to perform for other people who do not know God. The Christian cannot flee the world, hide away or consider that his or her religion is a private affair. We live in the world because we have a responsibility, a mission to all people: to be the light that shines.

You also have this task and if you do not perform it you are as useless as salt that has lost its taste or a light that is hidden.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The light is manifest in 'good works'. It shines through the good works that Christians accomplish.

You will say to me, "But not only Christians accomplish good works. Others contribute to progress, build houses, and promote justice". You are right. The Christian does and must do all these things, but these alone are not his peculiar tasks. He must accomplish these good works with a new spirit, which means it is no longer himself that lives in him, but Christ in him.

The Evangelist is not thinking of isolated acts of charity (like visiting prisoners, clothing the naked or like all the works of mercy that are carried out in response to the needs of the day). He is thinking of the total commitment of the Christian to the will of God so that the whole of his own life is a good work.

If the Christian does this, he is 'transparent'. The praise which would be given to him for what he has accomplished passes right through him to Christ who is in him and to God, who is thus present in the world. So the task of the Christian is to let that light which dwells in him shine out, to be the 'sign' of this presence of God among men.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

If the good work of the individual Christian has this character, then the Christian community in the midst of the world must also have a similar specific task. Through its life the presence of God, which is manifest where two or three are gathered together in his name, is revealed. This is the presence promised to the Church until the end of time.

The early Church gave great emphasis to these words of Jesus. Especially during difficult times, when the Christians received much abuse, the Church exhorted them not to react with violence. Their behaviour would be the best refutation of the evil spoken against them.

Writing to Titus, Paul says, 'urge the younger men to control themselves. Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.' (Titus 2.6-8)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Still today the experience of the Christian life is a light shining out and leading men to God.

I will tell you a true story.

Antoinette is from Sardinia, but in order to find work she came to France, to Grenoble. She was employed in an office where many had no wish to work. But because she was a Christian and saw in everyone Jesus to be served, she helped them all and was always calm and smiling. Often someone would get angry, shout at her and take it out of her in the office. One would say to her, 'Since you want to work, take mine, you can type out my work also.' She held her peace and worked on. She knew that they were not bad people. Probably everyone of them had his own trouble.

One day the boss came to see her while the others were out and asked her, 'Now you must tell me how you manage never to lose your patience and always to have a smile?' She evaded the question and said simply, 'I try to stay calm and look on the bright side.'

The boss banged his fist down on the desk and said, 'No! God is certainly in this affair, otherwise it would be impossible! And to think that I never believed in God!'

Some days later, Antoinette was called into the director's office where she was told that she would be transferred to another office, 'so that you may transform it as you have done with the one where you now are', added the director.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Chiara Lubich

 

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