A homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) by Fr. Peter Hahn

Father, what am I supposed to do? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone come to me in a time of crisis or difficulty asking this question.

All of us find ourselves in difficult situations. We try to gain some perspective, some framework, in which we can try to understand the situation. We try to reach some kind of resolution. I think it’s so easy for us in those times to be overcome by temptations to agitation and frustration when it seems that we can’t seem to solve the problem.

St. Paul on our second reading gives us a precious insight that we have to reflect upon a bit, a fundamental attitude, if you will, that we need to always have when engaging those situations and struggles of our life. He writes, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Whenever you and I try to understand or grasp anything any of the deepest questions of our life the struggles, we need to have this perspective. We need to keep our focus and to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. St. Paul goes on to say that when he came he spoke not with the persuasive words of wisdom, but with demonstration of spirit and power. Because it’s only in Christ that you and I can even begin to understand those issues that perplex us.

This Sunday we continue in the Sermon on the Mount. Last Sunday (February 5, 2017) we began chapter five. (The Sermon on the Mount is found in chapters 5-7 of St. Matthew’s Gospel). We heard the Beatitudes, as our Lord tried to tell us how we are to see and to live, to try to be meek and merciful and kind and a peacemaker. Today we pick up in the next verses, that follow immediately from that beginning passage, when Jesus tells us that we are to be salt of the earth and light of the world.

The metaphor is an obvious one. Salt and light have no value in and of themselves. Their importance and their worth is only what they add or give to something else. We don’t eat salt by itself. It’s added to something to enhance its flavor. Light doesn’t have any inherent value. But it is of invaluable importance when it illumines what we need to see and to guide us so that we can function.

All of this shows to us the essential quality of our call to follow Christ. It is for others. It is for us to give of ourselves in love for others. And again this is the perspective we always need, keeping our eyes on Christ who gave himself for us.

The first reading for the prophet Isaiah then gives a practical expression of that: how we are to share our bread with the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to clothe the naked, to remove false accusations and malicious speech. It is this life of charity that is the heart of our identity as disciples of Christ. The Prophet tells what will happen to us. If we do this, the light will rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

Again, we see the answers to that questions posed so often to me, in which we so often pose to ourselves, “What am I to do? How am I to respond to the situation? How will I find fulfillment?” The answer is to love. This answers the great paradox of our faith. If you want to find self fulfillment (and all of us do), we must forget about ourselves. This is how we can then be salt and light to the world. And so in all the countless interactions each week, do we seek to bring the truth and love of Christ to every encounter? When presented with the needs of others, do we recoil almost with a kind of anger that the requests are somehow infringing upon our freedom, or do we see them as opportunities to serve and love one another in Jesus’ name? When issues of faith and religion arise, are we fearless in our profession of our Catholic faith, confident in this very power of God that draws us here together and the presence of Christ who feeds us in this Eucharist, or do we capitulate to the mindless attitude of our age, that of political correctness that we’re only concerned with not saying anything which could in any way offend anyone?

The call of our faith is not to strive not to offend anyone. The call of our faith is to follow Christ, to keep our eyes on him, and to share his love and truth with all.

What am I supposed to do? You and I are supposed to do one thing, and only one thing. To love. To love God with our whole mind heart soul and strength, and love our neighbor as our self. We are called to be salt and light to this world, sharing that light of Christ which is mentioned to spell all darkness. We are called to live the truth of God’s love which St. Paul refers to with a joy and a hope that rests fully and only in him. And then in the image of the prophet Isaiah, that light will break forth like the dawn rising for us in the darkness, and then all of those decisions that we make will lead us closer to Christ, to the fulfillment and the happiness that all of us seek, and which he alone can give.

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