Images of light span the Bible. After the wind swept over the formless void, the first words spoken by God in the Bible are, Let there be light, and God saw how good the light was. The Book of Revelation ends when God will give light to his servants forever (22:5). In a modern city, where technology can turn night into day, the contrast between light and darkness loses its force. In Jesus’ time, darkness came suddenly, enveloping the whole land. Only with the help of light from a lampstand do the faces of others become visible. Light becomes a beacon to guide a travel-weary pilgrim; its faint glimmer signals the beginning of a new day.
A follower of Jesus is to be all of these, and Matthew tells us how this will happen. This section follows the Beatitudes, which describe the values to which a disciple should aspire, and it precedes the contrast statements that describe the higher form of justice evoked by Jesus: renunciation of anger, marital integrity, honesty in speech, breaking the cycle of violence and forgiving enemies. At the Second Vatican Council, echoing Isaiah and this Gospel, the bishops began their reflection on the church by calling it a light for the nations (lumen gentium). This description remains a mandate for every follower of Christ to live those values expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, and so become a beacon of hope for others and perhaps signal the dawn of a new day. Lent provides a time to reflect on this mission.
•Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) thinking of those parts that summon you to be a light to the world.
• Pray often the opening prayer of the Mass for Ash Wednesday, “May this season of repentance bring us the blessing of your forgiveness.”
•Ask God to transform you into an ambassador bearing a message of reconciliation.