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December 2009

(Original version August 1979)

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)

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

'Perhaps,' you'll tell me, 'but Christians aren't the only ones who do good works. Others work for progress, build homes, promote justice...'

You're right. Christians do and should do all these things, but these alone aren't their specific task. Christians should do good works with a new spirit, that spirit which means it is no longer themselves who live in them, but Christ in them.

The evangelist is not thinking of isolated acts of charity (such as visiting prisoners, clothing the naked, or any of the other works of mercy responding to today's needs). Rather, he is thinking of the total commitment of Christians to God's will, which makes of their entire life a good work. If Christians do this, they become 'unaffected and open', and the praise given for whatever they do, goes not to them, but to Christ in them, and through them God becomes present in the world.

What the Christian must do, therefore, is let this light dwelling within shine out, be the 'sign' of this 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 performed by individual believers have this character, then also the Christian community in the midst of the world must have a similar specific task: to reveal, through its life, the presence of God, which is manifested where two or three are gathered together in his name, a presence promised to the Church until the end of time.

The early Church gave great emphasis to these words of Jesus. Especially in difficult times when the Christians were facing persecution and being maligned, they were urged not to react with violence. Their behaviour had to be the best refutation of the evil spoken against them.

In the letter to Titus, it says: 'Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects 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.

It is the Christian life lived out that is a light capable of drawing people to God in today's times too.

Let me tell you a story. Antoinette was a girl from Sardinia, but in order to find work, she went to France, to Grenoble. She was employed in an office where most of her colleagues had no wish to work. Since she was a Christian and saw in every person Jesus to be served, she helped everybody, and was always calm and smiling. Often someone would get angry and take it out on her. They would mock her and say things like, 'If you want to work, you can take this and do my typing too'.

She held her peace and slogged away. She knew that they were not bad people. Probably each of them had their own troubles.

One day, when the others were not around, her supervisor came in and said, 'Now you must tell me how come you never lose patience and why you're always smiling'. Antoinette evaded the question by saying, 'I just try to keep calm and look on the bright side of things'.

Her supervisor banged his fist on the desk and exclaimed, 'No, this is definitely something to do with God, otherwise it would be impossible! And to think that I never believed in God!'

A few days later, Antoinette was called in to see the senior staff. She was told that she was being transferred to another office. 'So you can transform it as you have the office you're in now,' the director went on to explain.

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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