Isaiah 58:1-9 (9-12) Ps 112:1-9 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16) Matthew 5:13-20
The purpose of life is union with God and sin is any barrier to that union. God used the prophets of Israel as trumpets to sound a warning and call His people back to the right path. Today in Isaiah 58, Israel is accused of doing pious practices without seeking God. We see their “self-centered religion” manifested in their resentment of the Lord. They complain, “God does not see us, God does not know what we are doing,” which unveils their true motivation: “What’s in it for me?” This is the opposite of true religion.
The Lord tells Judah to fast from violence, greed and oppression. He calls them to be just and compassionate, providing for the needs of the lowly. "Then your light will burst forth and your healing will come quickly!"
In Isaiah 42:6 God said, "I created you and made you a covenant people, a light to the nations" and in Isaiah 49:6 "I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth." Jesus applies the words of Isaiah to His disciples:
"You are the light of the world." Jesus then says that we glorify God in our good works, to which I would add that only God's glory can define which of our works are good. The Law serves as a guide on good works but it is only in Jesus that the Law is fulfilled. Jesus reveals what the Law—to love God and neighbor—looks like concretely. Like Isaiah, Jesus rejects any self-seeking, merely outward compliance. Only obedient trust motivated by love is life-giving.
St Gregory Palamas* teaches that through the conversion process and a life of intense prayer, Christians can be infused with the Light of God. It is the divine light within us which makes us the light of the world. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies our own efforts to overcome the passions and to take on the mind of Christ. Unfortunately, too few are seriously engaged in this transformation.
The church has failed to embrace the path of true repentance and theosis union; we are at home in the world and comfortable with our desires. The light within us is dim.
Fortunately, even a dim light can seem bright in the darkness. If we increase our efforts to walk the path of holiness, then that light will shine more brightly. We must help each other sincerely seek union with God. Without the Holy Spirit, even our efforts to do good are infected by the passions which rule us. The darkness within us will twist our efforts at justice into power struggles and oppression, our religious practice devolves into resentful self-seeking. We must be saved from ourselves! The only hope is theosis union with God in Christ. He will heal us. He will purify us. Yet we must strive to repent and become a holy people. Jesus gives us no other choice: You are the light of the world!