This statement, made by Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:14), may seem a daunting prospect. It’s all very well when life is good, when we’re happy and healthy, conscious that our little corner of the world is a brighter place because of our presence and actions.
But what happens when we don’t feel like this? When work is lost and relationships collapse, when illness and depression surround us with an impenetrable fog, when our light is reduced to a dim flicker, and there is barely enough to keep ourselves aglow, never mind anyone else. Have we then failed in our call to be light to the world?
Far from being a shining beacon of light, do you ever feel more like a cold, dark lump of dust, totally barren and lifeless?
The moon is a barren lump of rock that is apparently quite useless, incapable of generating even the tiniest spark of light. And yet a full moon on a cloudless night can bathe a world in a beautiful clear light that, if not as bright as the noonday sun, is still enough to pierce the darkness, lightening the path and making the world safe for travellers.
The moon may be incapable of producing any light of its own but, simply by its presence, it provides the means for the light of the sun to be reflected onto a world that has turned its back, and is unable to receive the sun’s rays directly. For the sun is the true light of the world, the bright star at the centre of all our lives, and that light is God. In asking us to be light to the world in our turn, he does not ask us to makes ourselves gods, the creators of our own light, but simply to be ourselves, reflecting and passing on his light, whatever our circumstances. As long as we remain at our station, as faithful in emptiness and weariness as in fruitfulness and joy, God sends us his energy and light, and we can shine on the whole world. Not with our own light, but with his.