Monday September 23, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Proverbs 3:27-34) Gospel (St. Luke 8:16-18)
Our Lord tells us that no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket, but rather, the lamp is set out where everyone can see the light. That is exactly what He has done with us: He has placed His light within each one of us and now He wants us to shine as a light in the darkness. As we know, there is plenty of darkness around us.
It is very easy to try to hide the light because the darkness does not like the light; in fact, it rather hates it. But it is also made very clear in the Book of Proverbs what this light is supposed to be like for us. It is talking about refusing no good to one upon whom there is a claim for the good. It says not to say to somebody, "Go, and come back again tomorrow," if you can help them right away; plotting no evil against your neighbor; quarreling not with someone without a cause; envying not the lawless person; and so on. It is these sorts of things that we are to do. It is to live an upright life, to make sure we are not being envious of the ones who are not living an upright life, to make sure we are living a godly life, a life of virtue, and bringing that out into the world.
Now again, we know that the people who are trying not to live according to the way of the Lord do not like this because you become a thorn in their conscience. Your very presence is an irritant to them. But you just have to remember that it is not you. It is just you that they are taking it out on, but it is really about themselves. It is because they know they are not doing what is right and the way you are trying to live, in their own mind, makes them look very bad. But if you were removed from the situation, then they do not look so bad because most of the other people with which they have surrounded themselves are doing the same things they are. So they take it out on those who are trying to do what is right.
It is easy then to fall into the trap of either saying, "I should stop doing what is right, or at least when I am around these people I should lower my standards and act like them," or "I'll just simply pull into the background and I'll just hide everything." That would be like putting it under a bushel basket; or even worse, it is like blowing out the flame, and we cannot do that either. Where the light shines the most clearly is in the darkness. The candles on the altar, for instance, with all the lights on you can see them and they are bright, but with all the lights the brightness is not nearly so obvious. If we shut all the lights off and it was totally dark, then those candles on the altar would shine rather brilliantly and you would not be able to miss them because they would be the only light that is there.
That is exactly what the Lord has done with us. He has put us out into the darkness. There is not a whole lot of light; therefore, those who are going to be on fire with the love of the Lord are going to shine rather brilliantly. No one will be able to miss that fact. Therefore, they have a choice of either coming to the light or trying to put the light out because they prefer to be in the darkness - where, as Saint Paul makes very clear, the evil ones want to do their work so that they are hidden, so that nobody can see.
But we need to be seen. Not for ourselves, not because we want to be arrogant, not because we want to go out and show everybody else, but rather because the Lord has placed us in that situation and told us that we are the light of the world and that we need to go out into the world and bring that light to people who live in darkness. That is something that is incumbent upon us. So we need to strive to live a truly Christian life, to live a life of virtue, to live a life in union with Our Lord in all things, a life of prayer, a life of holiness, a life of goodness, a life of charity; all these things we have to be striving to live. And not just when we are around other good people who are trying to do the same thing. We need those people to help us and to support us, but it is especially necessary when we are out there in the darkness, when we are with people who are not that way, so that they too will be able to see the light. Then they have a choice to make. None of them will be able to say that they have never seen it. They will have seen the light of Christ; they will have seen the Lord shining through each one of us - and through you in particular in your own set of circumstances. You will shine like a light and the Lord will shine through you. These people will have seen the Lord and then they will have a choice to make. Either they will accept the light or reject it.
Regardless, the first choice has to be ours. Are we going to accept it or are we going to reject it? That is, are we going to put a basket over it or are we going to blow it out because we are embarrassed of the light, because we do not want the light to shine? We want it, but we don't. It is not a choice; it is not an option. We need to choose the light because the Light of the World is Jesus Christ, and we need to bring that light out into the darkness.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.