When Jesus says something, you can take it to the bank! Of course, you understand, that’s a metaphor, a figure of speech that is not to be taken literally, but is meant to communicate something true. In this case, the image is quite close to the reality.

When Jesus plants a seed (of truth) in our hearts, it is an investment. That is to say, he gives us something of himself, on loan so to speak, in order that his investment in us can grow and produce incredible “fruits.” We could speak of these fruits as interest on a deposit, but it is so much more. This is a gift that not only enriches us personally, but also brings light to the whole world.

Jesus often uses agricultural metaphors in his parables. A parable is an extended metaphor that turns it into a story. We know the parables by heart. Who says Catholics don’t know Scripture? We can reflect on them daily and how much they guide our lives, our mission as Christian disciples. 

Our real mission as disciples is not only to “go” to church, but to BE the Church in the world or, as Jesus says, to be the light of the world and the salt of the Earth. That means, like Jesus as a farmer or gardener would say, sowing the seed of God’s word. It is not just about holding fast to the “deposit of faith,” but in allowing Jesus to make an investment in us and in all we do and whomever we are with. Or, as one gentleman once said to me after a funeral Mass I celebrated in my early priesthood, “don’t just keep the faith, Father, spread it!”

Last Sunday Jesus, true to his style, gave us two metaphors.  He said, “You are the light of the world … the salt of the Earth.” Now if Jesus tells us that, it has to be true. And not only true in some real, factual sense, but in an effective way — something we are and can do that actually makes a difference.

He explains that we have to act according to what we are. If we are the light and the salt of the world — that which makes all that is good, beautiful and true in it visible and palpable — then if this is not happening, it must mean that we are not letting God’s investment in us grow and produce its promise. We might be hiding it or squandering it. Why would we waste or reject such a grace as this?

It might be out of fear or some anxiety. All investment involves a certain amount of risk. Is there a risk or a “downside” in spreading the Good News? Yes, there might well be, as things turn out. But the consequences for not taking the risk are far worse. The risk, of course, is the rejection and scorn the world might heap upon us. Whenever you turn the light on in a room where the darkness is hiding something — mold, mess or vermin, for example — some creatures will scamper and even attack you. If you ever tried to dislodge a hornet’s nest under a roof’s edge, you know what I mean.

Shining a light on a sinful situation can make a lot of people uncomfortable. For Christians, the risk of living in the light of their faith, the risk can even be some form of martyrdom. Even today, perhaps especially today, Christians around the world are being persecuted, attacked and even killed just for living their faith.

Jesus knows that the temptation is great for us to hide our lamps — the Light that is really Jesus himself — from a world that cannot live without his presence. And the Light shines forth from the Fire, the purifying Fire of Love, which is the Holy Spirit living in our hearts and from the very “Heart” of God.

Again, in speaking of the mystery of God, we must often use metaphors. Some truths are so profound that they cannot be expressed in prose. A certain poetry is required in speaking of God. Patience will pay off, however, if we let the Holy Spirit do what only he can: teach and remind us of all that God has done for us.

How many times Jesus tells us not to be afraid, to let go and let God, as they say in the 12-step programs. The world may be confused and chaotic, but rather than curse the darkness, we can let the Lord light up our hearts and let his light shine in us. We might be misunderstood and experience push back and mockery by some. Whenever you turn the light on in a room, you always attract a few flies.

The grace and privilege of being alive in these times, in this place, is also accompanied by a pledge from Jesus to be with us always and to brighten the path ahead of those who trust in him. Why stand in the way of the healing light of God’s presence, the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts?

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