"Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!" (Psalm 4).
How much we depend upon light. The early riser lights the first lamp. A light is left on for the late arrival. A light in the distance guides the weary traveler home.
Jesus uses the image of light to describe those who place their lives in the sight of God, whose face shines on them and fills them with light-- filling their minds and giving lightness to their hearts. How can they help then being that same light to others? The gift of a single smile starts the day as one person's light is passed along to others. The famous Christopher motto, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness," is the Gospel in miniature for our times, when so many have given up hope or retreated into the shadows of cynicism and fear.
Jesus also tells his follower to be salt. The art of conversation is the ability to add just the right amount of seasoning -- neither too much nor too little -- to the daily exchanges that set the mood and direction of our own thinking and the reactions of others. How easily a quick judgment or casual prejudice can set the day on edge for others, when we might have been light and flavor to their hearts.
The Good News is so much more than positive thinking. It begins with an encounter with God, the source of reality itself, inviting us to be co-creators of the world that unfolds anew as we step into each day. Our gladness rests on the confidence that God is always there.
Elijah meets the widow of Zarephath, who is in despair over her dwindling jar of flour and jug of oil. How easily fear of scarcity can set people against one another, hardening their hearts and closing their minds to others in desperate need. There will not be enough for us, so do not expect us to be generous with the stranger, the refugee, the newcomer. Elijah asks the widow to trust God's word that there is always enough -- and more -- where God is welcome.
Jesus calls his disciples to be filled to overflowing with God. If we entrust ourselves to this Word, not only will we dwell in peace, everyone we meet today will encounter this same gladness.