Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This Little Light of Mine

You know how you can hear a reading a million times, and nod and hear it but not really, and then some day, it's like KA-BLAM, it just hits you right between the eyes, and you will never not hear it again?

Matthew 5:13-17 is a little like that for me.  Here's the passage:

You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, in what way will it be salted?
It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown outside
and walked upon by people.
You are the light of the world.
A city set upon a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel,
but on a lampstand,
and it gives light to all in the house.
So let your light shine before people,
in order that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 5:13-17)

It's that question, "Do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel [basket]?"  And of course the answer is, No.  Shoot, we don't even have bushel baskets!  

But seriously, we don't hide lamps under beds unless we're 7 and playing fort and/or trying to read after Mom or Dad turned off the lights, right?

What's the story with these two? I'm thinking, hiding out from Dad
after putting Mom through a rough day...
(It never went well at my house.)

But then I don't know, I look at my own life and it seems pretty clear, actually I am pretty much hiding the light.  You wouldn't think it, Catholic priest, dazzling blogger, blah blah blah. (See how I slipped that in?)  But I don't know, it's still so easy never to step outside your own safe little world and show 'em what you got. 

That's the key to the reading for me -- taking a risk.  Why would someone not shine their light, not be the glorious and unique blessing for a world that God made them,  not let their freak flag fly? 

Because they think they don't have one? Yep. Sure. That happens.  

But how about also, because it means hanging your patoot out there for all to see?  

(I tried to find a good photo to go with the patoot line. Let's just say I learned a lot more about "tramp stamps" and plumbers than I would care to put you through.)

The difference between the Emperor who has no clothes and you and me is, when you put us out there to primp front and center, we know we have no clothes! We know our schtick has big time flaws. And so, Jeez, why go out there at all? 

It's the same thing doctoral candidates face.  The more you study, the more you realize how much there is to know, and how easily your professors could squash you like a bug.  (And sometimes they even do. Ah yes, the academic version of getting jumped into a gang. What fun that is.)

So we hide -- I do, anyway -- and convince myself that this is a legitimate response because I know my inadequacies.  

Problem is, end of the day in this scenario, I'm not a part of anything. I'm not out there in the world, which, as much as that's scary, it's also spontaneous and funny and, you know, the world! I'm like a miser, except instead of hoarding what I have I've grown convinced that what I have isn't anything.  Sometimes you don't even know what it is you have until you get out there and see. 

Great questions to ask yourself regularly, maybe in prayer at the end of the day -- where did I let my light shine (or, put another way, where did I let myself hang out a little bit)? And where did I get scared and run away?

I wonder what the world would like if we were all letting our freak flag fly.  I'm sure it would be a lot less rustic than Eden, but in other ways, I wonder if that's not what we mean by Paradise, or the heavenly choirs.

Sure sounds a lot more fulfilling than images like this:

Running away always puts me in mind of this video from Monty Python... 

Could it be, in some aspect of our lives, we've convinced ourselves that something actually benign is incredibly dangerous?


M Russell said...

Maybe you should add "Wow" to your reactions checklist. Never thought of the Rabbit sketch quite that way before.
But, yes, this passage from Matthew also struck me a few months ago in prayer: "you are the light of the world" -- what? ME? THE light of the whole world? I think you have the wrong person here :-)!
This has given me a lot to ruminate on; thank you for your insight as well. -- Michelle R

Michelle said...

Oh dear, here I am procrastinating writing something slightly risky and I find this. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, God has the most unscrupulous sense of humor at times.

Enough...I'll go write, already.

Jim McDermott, SJ said...

You're welcome, M. And Michelle, get to it! :) Hope the writing goes well.

Michelle said...

I did get to it -- results of risky writing are up at the Deacon's Bench and my blog; other writing is nearly ready to go to the editor tonight!