As I was pondering today’s Gospel passage, the famous Einstein quote popped into my head: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Being “light” does not mean having a new angle on the same old dualistic problems. It is not about crusading. It is not about thinking the correct thoughts or praying with the proper language to the appropriate God.
Real transformation does not begin in our heads; it starts at what feels like a cellular level, far below the stratum of conscious awareness. It grows in us like yeast in bread. Only later is it big enough to have overwhelmed and converted the way we conceptualize things. By then the whole landscape of our existence has been revisioned.
Jesus, when he invites his audience to be the light on the lampstand, is talking to people who have never thought of themselves as religious authorities. Rather, they see themselves as sinners, far from God’s favor. They are not educated rabbis and priests; they are common fishermen, farmers, merchants, beggars and shepherds. Following Jesus will change their souls, and after that they will naturally see and think differently.
Right now, though, and from now on as they grow in relationship with Christ, they are the light of the world. They have something to offer. Beginning in this very moment, they are invited to put themselves out there and to shine.
The light within us is our authentic being, and it grows as we form and develop in our relationship with God — as we become more and more genuine through the disciplines of prayer, worship, conversation with our neighbors, exploring, and giving. But it has always been there, and it always will be. Let that light shine out, Jesus tells us. Do not shutter it.
I’m learning that my light is all of me, not just the parts I think are cool. I am a package deal, a mixed blessing. I am abrupt, callous, dismissive, and cold as well as patient and genuinely loving. I get angry, gossip and manipulate until I catch myself at it and stop. It is with struggle that I give up my grudges and ask God to forgive the grudges God could carry against me. I am only now, at age 68, beginning to see that noticing beauty, joy, and gratitude is seeing Christ present in the world. I often head in the wrong direction at great speed. And still, right now, as I am, with all of you, I am the light of the world. We, together, are the light of the world.
So let’s worry less about right ways of believing and right words for describing things. Let’s not fight against others’ beliefs or wrong attitudes. We are light, meant to spill ourselves out all over the place in love, creativity and wonder. We are meant to shine. The transformation of the world, of all of us together, is an ongoing cellular change which is happening as we grow in relationship with God. Our job is to show up in loving ways, to speak truth to power, to bring our creative spirits to all the world’s impasses, and to engage as often as we can in awe, joy, and gratitude. God is working it all out. And we, now, as we are, are the light of the world.