To use a cliché we could say that the world and the Church so differ from each other as night and day. This analogy is intentional and revealing because it is first used by Christ who is the Light that shines in the darkness of the world. It is also intentional and revealing in the sense that, by association, we too are called to be light.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (cf. Matthew 5:14-16)
This passage from Matthew clarifies for us what God is telling us through St. Paul in his Letter to the Thessalonians. First of all we ought to be aware that we are children of the light and children of the day. (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:5)
Simply put, we ought to think, make our choices, reason, talk and act as people begotten by Light. If this doesn’t happen day in and day out, 24/7, we run the deadly, fatal risk of turning the blessings inherent to “the day of the Lord” into darkness, into night, and be robbed of all the gifts that God bestows on us in Christ.
According to the Father’s plan, The day of the Lord refers to the last day ever. It will be the day on which darkness, evil, hatred, death will be destroyed and goodness and love will triumph. It will be the day on which the Body of Christ, i.e., his Bride, i.e., all of us (Church) will be freed of all imperfections and sins and be as glorious and as “pure love” as Jesus, the Head of the Body is.
Here is a crucial question: how are we to be and act as light? God answers again through St. Paul: by not sleeping as the rest, as the world, do, but by staying alert and sober.
There are many sentences in the Gospel driving home the same point of equating being light with doing rather than just saying, by being concrete, factual actions rather than merely talking about what we could do. Thus, being and acting as children of the light becomes an attitude of the heart that shapes every single corner of our being no matter where we happen to be, at home, traveling, resting, working, eating, having fun, etcetera. This inner attitude must shape our life no matter how we might feel at any given hour: happy or sad, healthy or sick, honored or ignored, elated or dejected, praised or criticized.
A revealing story is told about young St. Aloysius Gonzaga; it illustrates this particular requirement of being and acting as children of the light any time, anywhere, anyhow. St. Aloysius was playing in the garden of his Dad’s palace and he was asked: what would you do if an angel were to tell you that in an hour you will die? St. Aloysius replied with simplicity: “I will continue to play.”
Don’t you see: even as a child he had already the right attitude of preparedness so that the day of the Lord could not catch him like a thief at night? Let us face it: we are still far from possessing such enviable attitude of thinking and acting as children of the light—even if most of us are much, much older than St. Aloysius. As the Lord shakes us from our slumber, we should try to simplify things for ourselves lest we wind up squandering our efforts.
On the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we learned that the difference between being admitted to the wedding feast of the divine Groom and being left out in the darkness and cold outside is the amount of oil that we managed to acquire. We also learned that it is the oil of our caring, of our loving, of our serving each other with dedication, perseverance and joy.
Today, on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we learn another aspect of the same truth: we are to take stock of ALL the talents, the skills, good qualities, inclinations, expertise that the Lord has given us and use them in our caring, loving and serving. We also learn that our worst enemy is fear. Look at today’s parable: the servant who is thrown in the darkness outside, the servant who forfeits being a child of light is the one who acts out of fear.
“…so, out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.”(cf. Matthew 25:25)
Fear kills love and, after killing love, it shuts us out of the Kingdom of light. Fear has to do with self-preservation, self-interest, self-centeredness. It fills our minds and hearts with this question: “Why should I risk my comfort, my interest, my time, my talents for someone else?”
The remedy for fear is the Eucharist. It demands that we be “broken” and “poured” for others the way the Body of Jesus is broken for us all and his Blood is poured for our salvation. The Eucharist is the nourishment of the children of light so that they may be inspired to carry out the new commandment of loving each other the way Jesus loves us.
In this context, during the month of November, we gather for special memorial Masses. This perhaps is the most natural and easiest part of our caring, loving and serving each other. We do so for the people that we love and miss the most, our loved ones who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. We do so by praying for them and by offering the broken Body (Jesus’ and ours) and the poured Blood (Jesus’ and ours) for their final purification before they enter into the Kingdom of Light. We do so with intense hope that we are all heading for a final, endless reunion with them in the Kingdom of the Father, the Kingdom of Light.