Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday in the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
To Hear Is To Shine

Readings: Ezra 1:1-6; Psalm 126:1b-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6; Luke 8:16-18

To hear is to shine. This might be a useful summary of our gospel passage today. Immediately after speaking about the importance of hearing and keeping the word of God, Jesus paints for us a picture of a lamp, alight and mounted on a lamp-stand. The point is clear. When someone truly listens to God’s word, s/he becomes a light to all around, illuminating the darkness of sin and selfishness, of doubt and unbelief. But what might this look like in real life, in our lives?

The first reading helps to prepare us for this personal reflection. For here we see a confirmation of Jesus’ message. The background of the story is dark. The people of Israel are in exile, far from their home. Jerusalem and their beloved Temple have been destroyed. But today, we see light beginning to shine out. It shines from an obvious location: the chosen people of Israel. The first reading tells us of the preparations they make to return from exile and to rebuild what has been lost. But the Israelites are by no means the only lamp shining out in the darkness.

We hear also about their neighbours, the people among whom they live as exiles. We’re told that these gave them every assistance… The Israelites can shine only because of the light received from others. And all this is made possible because of light shining from yet another source – Cyrus the king Persia himself. How does the light come to be ignited in this most unlikely source? We’re told that the Lord roused the Spirit of Cyrus… Gentile conqueror though he may be, Cyrus heard the word of the Lord and allowed it to shine out through him. Cyrus heard and he shone. And how contagious was that shining…

Over the past week, my community has been engaged in sharing with one another our life-stories. It’s been an opportunity to look back at the lights and shadows of the past, to recognize, in others and in ourselves, that light can shine even in the most unlikely, the darkest, of times and of places. It’s not always an easy, much less appealing, thing to do. Yet it is also necessary. For it is only in recognizing the, often improbable, lamps shining in our own lives that we can truly hear the word of God, and in the hearing, continue to shine out for others to see.

How are we being invited to hear and to shine today?

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