Like literally millions of other Christians, I have been listening to Father Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year podcast regularly since January 1, 2021. Recently we spent weeks on the Exile, the period during which most of the Israelites dwelt in Babylon while Jerusalem and the Temple were in ruins.
So I was excited to see that today’s First Reading recounts the beginning of the end of that period of exile. King Cyrus of Persia not only lets the Israelites go, he also promises that the Temple will be rebuilt. After reading the many details on the Temple and its construction, and knowing what it meant to the Israelites, this makes me happy to read. How much happier must they have been at this news? The Responsorial Psalm tells us of their laughter and rejoicing. I love to imagine their dancing and singing and their smiling happy faces.
Today’s Gospel Acclamation exhorts us to let our light shine, and in the Gospel Jesus reminds us not to place that light under a bushel. At the end of their exile, the Israelites could not hide the light of their faith and their appreciation of the good things God had done for them.
Surely God has done great things for all of us, but how good are we at shining? I reflect today on the martyrs of the Church in Korea, whose feasts we are celebrating. Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions (103 other priests, missionaries, and lay people) let their light shine even when it meant certain death. During waves of persecution, surely God would have excused them if they had chosen to consider their faith more of a private matter, right? Yet St. Andrew said, “We have received baptism, entrance into the Church, and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name only and not in fact?” He and these other witnesses to the faith chose to shine brightly even unto death.
What does this mean for us today? What does shining your light look like for a modern Catholic in a country where we have no fear of martyrdom? I believe there are as many ways to shine as there are Catholics! Some of you wear Catholic apparel and jewelry. Others extend invitations to Mass or to a parish event. Some might offer prayers to a friend in need. Perhaps you write about your faith for others to read. Some of you may be the proprietors of Catholic businesses. These are all wonderful and valid ways of letting others see your light.
But I think that more important are the less obvious ways that all Christians are called to demonstrate their faith: by loving God and neighbor and making sure that all our actions, every day, reflect that love. How do we treat one another when we are not at church? Are we kind to those who serve us in stores and in restaurants? How do we conduct ourselves during online disagreements? Remember that anyone who knows you are a Christian is apt to judge ALL Christians by your behavior. The very best way for Christians to be the light of the world is to love one another visibly and well.
Leslie Sholly is a Catholic, Southern wife and mother of five, living in her hometown, Knoxville, Tennessee. She graduated from Georgetown University with an English major and Theology minor. She blogs at Life in Every Limb, where for 11 years she has covered all kinds of topics, more recently focusing on the intersection of faith, politics, and social justice.
Feature Image Credit: ramirocosta, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/26096-cristo-futuro-santuario