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February 1999

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Mt 5:16)

If you are a believer you have a role to play in relation to others, in relation to people who do not know God. A Christian in fact cannot flee from the world, hide away, or consider religion to be a private matter. Christians live in the world because they have a responsibility, a mission to all people. They must be the light that shines.

You too have this task and, if you don't carry it out, you will be as useful as salt that has lost its taste or light that has become shade.

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

The light can be seen in 'good works'. It shines through the good works that Christians do. You might say, however, that Christians are not the only ones who do good works. Many other people work for progress, provide housing, promote justice etc. You are right. Christians certainly must carry out all these things too, and indeed they do. But this is not their specific role. Christians must do good works with a new spirit, that spirit by which it is no longer they who live but Christ who lives in them.

Matthew is not thinking merely of isolated acts of charity (such as visiting prisoners, clothing the naked, or the whole range of activities undertaken to meet the needs of people in our world today). Rather he is thinking of a Christian's total adherence to the will of God, so that his or her entire life becomes a good work.

A Christian who lives like this is 'transparent' and any praise that comes for all the good he or she does, is not given directly to the person but to Christ. And God, by means of this Christian, will be present in the world. So all a Christian has to do is to let his or her inner light shine through, to be a sign of the presence of God among people.

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

If the good works of just one believer have this characteristic, then the Christian community in the midst of the world must have the same specific role: to reveal the presence of God made manifest where two or three are united in his name, a presence promised to the Church until the end of time.

The early Church gave great importance to these words of Jesus. When difficult times came, and Christians were slandered, the Church exhorted them not to react violently. Their behaviour was to be their best defence against the lies spoken about them.

In the letter to Titus we read: 'Urge the young men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.' (Titus 2:6-8)

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

Today too, it is the living out of Christian life that is the light which bears witness to God. Let me tell you a story.

Anita was from Sardinia but had gone to France to find a job. She worked in a large office where there were many people who had no desire to work. Because she was a Christian, and saw Christ to be served in each person, she would help everyone and was always calm and smiling. Quite often one of the others would get cross and tease her and shout: "If you're so keen on working, why don't you do mine as well?'. Anita would say nothing and slog on. She knew her colleagues were not bad at heart. Almost certainly they had their troubles too.

One day the office manager came to talk to her while the others were out. He said: 'I want to ask you how come you never lose your temper and are always smiling?.' Anita was a little embarrassed and said: 'Well I just try to keep calm and look on the bright side." At that the office manager banged his fist on the table and said: 'No, that's not all. I'm sure God has something to do with it. Otherwise you couldn't do it! ... and to think that I didn't believe in God!'

A few days later Anita was called in to see the general manager. He told her she was to move to another office, 'so that' he explained, 'you can transform the situation in that office as you did in the last one'.

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

Chiara Lubich

 

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