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(Part 22)


February 9, 2014

Today’s readings:
Isaiah 58:7-10
Psalm 112:4-9
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Matthew 5:13-16

We are empowered to witness. Jesus says it plainly and directly. “You are the salt of the earth. .... You are the light of the world.” (Mt 5:13a,14a). The basic call and corresponding empowerment are there. But depending on how we live our life, we can become ineffective. “But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot?” (Mt 5:13b). The light can also be “hidden” or put “under a bushel basket” (Mt 5:14c-15a). But the lamp that we are is to be “set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.” (Mt 5:15b). We have our role to play. “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt 5:16).

So how do we witness effectively to the world, so that God may be glorified? How do we tap into God’s power, so we may do good works? To be salt and light, we are to live just and righteous lives. “It is good for the man .... who conducts his affairs with justice. .... the righteous shall be remembered forever.” (Ps 112:5,6b).

What is justice? It is “sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh” (Is 58:7). It is helping the poor. It is being our brother’s keeper. It is being in solidarity with the least and the lost. When we do this, what happens? “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (Is 58:8a). What is justice? “It is when “you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted” (Is 58:10a). Again, what is the result? “Then your light shall rise in the darkness” (Is 58:10b). The just man is the man who is light.

To be light is to be just and righteous. Justice and righteousness are about both word and deed. “If you remove .... the accusing finger, and malicious speech; if you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday” (Is 58:9b-10). We do good work and we avoid bad words. We do work with the poor and we do not malign, judge, accuse or condemn.

So when we act in justice and righteousness, then we will be empowered. Such power is not from us but comes from God. It is God’s divine work, and it can only be God’s power that can accomplish it. We avoid two extremes. One, to think we do things on our own strength and wisdom. Two, to think we cannot do it because we are not that gifted. This is what Paul said. “When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling” (1 Cor 2:1,3). And look what God accomplished through Paul! Paul knew Who was backing him up. He knew Who provided the power. He said, “my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power” (1 Cor 2:4). The less of us, the more of God! The greater our weakness, the more the strength of God can shine through! This is as God intends. God uses us, but we act not according to the world. At the end of the day, God desires that “your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:5). That is being empowered to witness!

In our weakness, looking to God’s power, and if we are just and righteous, we simply call upon Him. “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here I am!’” (Is 58:9a). And why not? God sends us to do a task, so, if we are the proper instruments, then God will equip and empower us. And as God sends us forth, He will protect us and give us the victory. “Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” (Is 58:8b). Vindication is about defense, about overcoming. God sends His angels ahead of us, enables us to devastate the enemy, and leaves His shining glory in its wake. So what are we to fear? “For he shall never be shaken; the righteous shall be remembered forever. He shall not fear an ill report; his heart is steadfast, trusting the Lord. His heart is tranquil, without fear, till at last he looks down on his foes.” (Ps 112:6-8). Choose to be brave!

Such is the power of the cross. The cross seems to be about weakness and defeat. In the spiritual realm, the cross is actually power and victory. So God uses our weakness to achieve His victory. We must then focus on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2). Our work is to proclaim Christ and the salvation he won on the cross. We march under the banner of the cross.

Let the light of Christ shine in and through us, as we become just and righteous warriors of the Kingdom. “Light shines through the darkness for the upright; gracious, compassionate, and righteous.” (Ps 112:4). Just keep in mind the winning formula: justice (especially with regard to the poor) and righteousness equals power (represented by the horn) and victory (exalted in honor). “Lavishly he gives to the poor; his righteousness shall endure forever; his horn shall be exalted in honor.” (Ps 112:9).

Onward to the New Evangelization! Choose to be brave!

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