Let Your Light Shine

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ entrusted His followers with this task: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mt 5:16). Hear how His followers comment on the task at hand:

Christ is saying: “[Teach] with so pure a light, that men may not only hear your words, but see your works, that those whom as lamps ye have enlightened by the word, as salt ye may season by your example. For by those teachers who do as well as teach, God is magnified; for the discipline of the master is seen in the behaviour of the family.” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“The lamp is the Divine word, of which it is said, ‘Thy word is a lamp unto my feet’ (Ps 119:105). They who light this lamp are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“He instructs the Apostles to shine with such a light, that in the admiration of their work God may be praised.” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“Had He only said, ‘That they may see your good works,’ He would have seemed to have set up as an end to be sought the praises of men, which the hypocrites desire; but by adding, ‘and glorify your Father,’ he teaches that we should not seek as an end to please men with our good works, but referring all to the glory of God, therefore seek to please men, that in that God may be glorified.” -St. Augustine

“He means not that we should seek glory of men, but that though we conceal it, our work may shine forth in honour of God to those among whom we live.” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. I, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841).

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A Lampstand

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ said, “Neither do men light a lamp to put it under a corn-measure, but on a stand, to give light to all that are in the house” (Mt 5:15). Let us hear how saints and sages have applied this teaching to their living according to the Word of God:

“He instructs them what should be the boldness of their preaching, that as Apostles they should not be hidden through fear, like lamps under a corn-measure, but should stand forth with all confidence, and what they have heard in the secret chambers, that declare upon the house tops.” -St. Jerome

“Putting the lamp under the corn-measure means the preferring bodily ease and enjoyment to the duty of preaching the Gospel, and hiding the light of good teaching under temporal gratification. The corn-measure aptly denotes the things of the body, whether because our reward shall be measured out to us, as each one shall receive the things done in the body (2 Cor 5:10); or because worldly goods which pertain to the body come and go within a certain measure of time, which is signified by the corn-measure, whereas things eternal and spiritual are contained within no such limit. He places his lamp upon a stand, who subdues his body to the ministry of the word, setting the preaching of the truth highest, and subjecting the body beneath it. For the body itself serves to make doctrine shine more clear, while the voice and other motions of the body in good works serve to recommend it to them that learn.” -St. Augustine

“Worldly men are foolish in spiritual things, but wise in earthly things, and therefore like a corn-measure they keep the word of God hid. . . . The stand for the lamp is the Church which bears the word of life.” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“Let none shut up his faith within the measure of the Law, but have recourse to the Church in which the grace of the sevenfold Spirit shines forth.” -St. Ambrose

“Christ Himself has lighted this lamp, when He filled the earthen vessel of human nature with the fire of His Divinity, which He would not either hide from them that believe, nor put under a bushel that is shut up under the measure of the Law, or confine within the limits of any one oration. The lampstand is the Church, on which He set the lamp.” -St. Bede the Venerable

St. Hilary of Poitiers states: “The lamp, that is, Christ Himself, is set on its stand when He was suspended on the Cross in His passion, to give light for ever to those that dwell in the Church; ‘to give light,’ He says, ‘to all that are in the house.'” St. Augustine adds that this “house” may be understood as either the Church or the world.

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. I, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841).

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A City on a Hill

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ juxtaposed two intriguing statements: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Mt 5:14). Hear how several Catholic exegetes relate the two:

“Mark how great His promise to them, men who were scarce known in their own country that the fame of them should reach to the ends of the earth. The persecutions which He had foretold, were not able to dim their light, yea they made it but more conspicuous.” -St. John Chrysostom

“This city is the Church of which it is said, ‘Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God’ (Ps 87:3). Its citizens are all the faithful, of whom the Apostle speaks, ‘Ye are fellow-citizens of the saints’ (Eph 2:19). It is built upon Christ the hill, of whom Daniel [says], ‘A stone hewed without hands became a great mountain’ (Dn 2:34).” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“The mountain is the great righteousness, which is signified by the mountain from which the Lord is now teaching.” -St. Augustine

“The Apostles and Priests who are founded on Christ cannot be hidden even though they would, because Christ makes them manifest.” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“They ought to be careful of their own walk and conversation, seeing they were set in the eyes of all, like a city on a hill, or a lamp on a stand.” -St. John Chrysostom

“The city signifies the flesh which He had taken on Him; . . . and we by partaking in His flesh become inhabitants of that city. He cannot therefore be hid, because being set in the height of God’s power, He is offered to be contemplated of all men in admiration of his works.” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“In the illustration of the city, He signified His own power, by the lamp He exhorts the Apostles to preach with boldness; as though He said, ‘I indeed have lighted the lamp, but that it continue to burn will be your care, not for your own sakes only, but both for others who shall receive its light and for God’s glory.'” -St. John Chrysostom

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. I, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841).

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Light of the World

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ declared to His disciples: “Ye are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14a). Let us hear how several Catholic exegetes interpret this empowering statement:

“By their word of doctrine they are the light by which the ignorant are enlightened.” -Gloss

“It is the nature of a light to emit its rays whithersoever it is carried about, and when brought into a house to dispel the darkness of that house. Thus the world, placed beyond the pale of the knowledge of God, was held in the darkness of ignorance, till the light of knowledge was brought to it by the Apostles, and thenceforward the knowledge of God shone bright, and from their small bodies, whithersoever they went about, light is ministered to the darkness.” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“As the sun sends forth his beams, so the Lord, the Sun of righteousness, sent forth his Apostles to dispel the night of the human race.” -Remigius of Auxerre

“To live well must go before to teach well; hence after He had called the Apostles ‘the salt,’ He goes on to call them ‘the light of the world.’  -Pseudo-Chrysostom

“By the world here we must not understand heaven and earth, but the men who are in the world; or those who love the world for whose enlightenment the Apostles were sent.” -St. Augustine

“Salt preserves a thing in its present state that it should not change for the worse, . . . light brings it into a better state by enlightening it; therefore the Apostles were first called salt with respect to the Jews and that Christian body which had the knowledge of God, and which they keep in that knowledge; and now light with respect to the Gentiles whom they bring to the light of that knowledge.” -Pseudo-Chrysostom

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. I, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841).

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Salt of the Earth

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ said to His disciples: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Mt 5:13). Here is what several commentators have said about this statement:

“This shows them how necessary were these precepts for them. Not for your own salvation merely, or for a single nation, but for the whole world is this doctrine committed to you. It is not for you then to flatter and deal smoothly with men, but, on the contrary, to be rough and biting as salt is. When for thus offending men by reproving them ye are reviled, rejoice; for this is the proper effect of salt to be harsh and grating to the depraved palate. Thus the evil-speaking of others will bring you no inconvenience, but will rather be a testimony of your firmness.” -St. John Chrysostom

“There may be here seen a propriety in our Lord’s language which may be gathered by considering the Apostles’ office, and the nature of salt. This, used as it is by men for almost every purpose, preserves from decay those bodies which are sprinkled with it; and in this, as well as in every sense of its flavour as a condiment, the parallel is most exact. The Apostles are preachers of heavenly things, and thus, as it were, salters with eternity; rightly called ‘the salt of the earth,’ as by the virtue of their teaching, they, as it were, salt and preserve bodies for eternity.” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“Salt is changed into another kind of substance by three means, water, the heat of the sun, and the breath of the wind. Thus Apostolical men also were changed into spiritual regeneration by the water of baptism, the heat of love, and the breath of the Holy Spirit.” -Remigius of Auxerre

“The Apostles are the salt of the earth, that is, of worldly men who are called the earth, because they love this earth.” -Remigius of Auxerre

“By the Apostles the whole human race is seasoned.” -St. Jerome

“In the Old Testament no sacrifice was offered to God unless it were first sprinkled with salt [Lv 2:13], for none can present an acceptable sacrifice to God without the flavour of heavenly wisdom.” -Remigius of Auxerre

“Because man is ever liable to change, He therefore warns the Apostles, who have been entitled ‘the salt of the earth,’ to continue stedfast in the might of the power committed to them, when He adds, ‘If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?'” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“Not he that suffers persecution is trodden under foot of men, but he who through fear of persecution falls away. For we can tread only on what is below us; but he is no way below us, who however much he may suffer in the body, yet has his heart fixed in heaven.” -St. Augustine

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. I, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841).

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God Ever Present to Us

Father Cassilly reflects upon God’s abiding presence in all His gifts. He writes: “Each moment of the continued existence of creatures is, as it were, a new creation. For, to conserve in being things which of themselves constantly tend to nothingness requires the same Almighty Power that brought them first into existence. . . . Small, insignificant though I be, mine is the happy lot of being destined ever to be borne up on the bosom, encircled by the arm, of Omnipotence itself.”

“And from the dogma of God’s omnipresence follow many consoling reflections. From it I learn that my Creator is never absent one moment from me during my long progress from the cradle to the grave. . . . More tenderly than the most devoted of mothers, He watches and guards me sleeping and waking.” He Himself accompanies every gift of His love to me, for “it is as impossible for Him to be absent from His gift as from me.”

“The Creator is ever working for me. . . . Every kind ministration of my father or mother was equally His. He built the house that shelters me far more truly than the carpenters and masons who labored on it, and so He was my mason and builder. He plants and waters and reaps the grain, grinds it in the mill, and brings the flour to my door. He lights the fire, sets the water to boil and cooks my meals, and when all is ready He sets the table and serves the dishes.”

But, how can He do all this without burden and weariness? “It is love that drives Him on, and love never wearies of well-doing. We tire of protracted toil, become heart-sick and weary in the treadmill of duty, our muscles ache and our brain becomes fagged, and rest we must have. But God never wearies of action. To work, to act is His nature and essence, and He cannot rest. Inaction is to Him impossible.”

“Since God then never lets me out of His sight, how can I ever forget His presence? Since He is ever working, doing for me, how shall I ever perform any action which is not directed to Him? True friendship is never content away from the object of its love, and can I, whom God cannot bear to part from for a moment, be happy for one moment pursuing creature loves, unmindful of my one true friend? And every act of which I am capable with mind, heart or hand, should be done for Him in return, for the true lover cannot think of or love anything but his beloved.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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God Ever Working for Us

Father Cassilly observes: “God is ever working for me. . . . All created entity must come from and depend on God. Without Him there can be nothing. The moment any being or entity existed independent of or apart from God, it would cease to be a creature. And each action in the universe, whether proceeding from highest angel or lowly atom, has an entity of its own, it is something, and as such must depend on God.”

“Nothing is inactive. Work, energy is the price of being. In midwinter, when nature seems a dead and frozen thing, wrapped in its winding sheet of snow, when no leaf or flower can be seen, action does not cease, it but seems to pause. The current of plant life is but sluggish in its channels, there is still sap within the branches, and the dormant buds are but waiting for the first breath of spring to leap into renewed life. And deep within the ground, below the frost line, the chemical forces are at work in the roots, preparing for the intense burst of summer activity. Nature sleeps, but sleep is only quieter action. Entire cessation of action is death. The more intense, higher and nobler the mode of action, the nearer it approaches Infinite Action, which knows nor pause nor rest.”

“There can then be no being or action of being which is not dependent on God in its inception and continuance. The sun shines, and the action of shining proceeds from the sun, which has energy of its own, but, for the exercise of that energy God’s concurrence is absolutely necessary.”

“We learned in childhood days that God, by virtue of His immensity, is everywhere. Nothing created is remote from Him. Beyond Him, out of His sight, there is nothing. In remotest planet, in the last grain of stardust whirling on the confines of space, in depths of ocean, wherever there is created being, there must dwell the Increate. Nothing that He has made escapes Him, is forgotten, deserted or abandoned, for in the moment that He forgot or forsook it it would perish, reverting to its original nothingness. It is the weakness or privilege of man to forget, but not of the Creator.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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