February 5, 2011


5th Sunday - A
Matthew 5: 13-16

You are the Light of the World

To better appreciate the message of Jesus in this passage, it is worth noting that this passage (Matthew 5: 13-16) is part of the Sermon on the Mount. (We began reading this Sermon last Sunday).

Matthew begins the Sermon with the audience and the setting of Jesus' teaching: "When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. And after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them." (5: 1-2)

The audience is the crowds that have followed Jesus from all over "Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan." (4: 25). This audience is the new chosen people of the Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim [1].

Jesus gives his Sermon from the mountain. This setting recalls the first teaching of God's way to Israel when Moses received the commandments on Mount Sinai. Now, from another mountain, Jesus teaches the way of God to the second chosen people.

The first chosen people of Israel was instructed by Isaiah of their vocation of being "a light to the nations" (Isaiah 42: 6 and 49:6) [2]. They would fulfill this destiny when they "share [their] bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked, and do not turn [their] back on [their] own" (Isaiah 58:7) [3].

And now, Jesus tells the second chosen people of their same vocation, "You are the light of the world."

Thus, the instruction of the Beatitudes, and in fact, of the whole Sermon on the Mount, is the manual for God's second chosen people to fulfill their destiny.

[1] For a more detailed discussion of this point, see the commentary for Sunday, Jan. 31, 2011
[2] Daniel Harrington, SJ. The Gospel of Matthew, Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 80.
[3] First Reading for this 5th Sunday - A.

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