We start off today with words written 50 years before Christ in the Book of Wisdom,
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.”
How about the words of the second reading?
“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to apply this to our families, our careers, and even our Church. But even as dark as that all sounds, the first reading from the Book of Wisdom (and boy do we need wisdom now) gives so much hope. We aren’t the first people to feel beset upon. It’s been going on for a while now.
The challenge before us is applying this to daily life. Every day, we’re called to be God’s light and truth to others. Sometimes that means a random act of kindness to a stranger. Sometimes it means being a light shining in the darkness, and it feels hopeless, because even so, you’re still surrounded by darkness. In the opening of the Gospel of John, “the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” I love this image. Imagine someone standing in a field with a single candle. The field remains essentially completely dark, but the light shining remains visible. For how far could that light be seen? Two guys from MIT actually answered this question scientifically. Saving you the details, it can be seen for 1.6 miles. By the beauty of the internet and math, I calculated that a single candle (assuming a flat field with no obstructions) would be seen over an area over 8.7 square miles. Talk about a little going a long way!
The idea of a little going a long way is something we’re familiar with if we look to Christ’s acts. In the Gospels, there are six accounts of two separate miracles of feeding thousands with a few loaves and fish. The source of the original few loaves and fishes seems to be rather unimportant because only in the Gospel of John does it mention specifically they came from a boy. While the source may not be of the utmost importance, the loaves and fish likely came from someone among the crowd. They came from somewhere, from someone, and THAT is important. Christ could have, but didn’t just say “Presto! Let there be food for all!” It started with something insignificant. On its own, a few loaves and fish was totally useless.
If the objective is how to feed thousands, how insignificant are these few loaves and fish? I’ll tell you this post feels far more insignificant and as inadequate to make a difference today. But I do it anyway, because Christ has a way of making our efforts go further, but you have to give Him something to start with.
There’s no shortage of evil in our world, and as we heard a couple weeks ago, we don’t have to worry as much about the evil around us as we do from the evil that bubbles up from inside us. This reading should give us courage to use all that we have at our disposal to bring ourselves closer to Him, and to speak His truth.
So in this context, how do we bring ourselves closer to Him? We have the “lowercase church,” meaning our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to look after. We have the sacraments. We have His words, which we need to do a better job of actually reading.
When confronting any evil or wrong, we should expect incoming arrows. This is what the “just (righteous) one,” sets out to do, and he was “reviled and tortured,” in the first reading. When you feel jabs and barbs, you’re probably doing it right. In going to look up what Jesus said about turning the other cheek, (it’s in Matthew chapter 5 in case you wanted to read the other good stuff there), I stumbled into what the whole point and tenor of how we speak that truth to power; we should be “salt and light.”
Don’t hide your light. Being light through kindness to others, especially a stranger, takes courage. Being light through speaking truth takes faith. Today’s readings give us the direction to give Him something to work with and see how much further He’ll multiply the good.
“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.”