Jesus The Light of the World

There is nothing so discouraging as being told constantly to "try harder." Our driving instructor tells us to "try harder" and we find ourselves driving into the lamp-post instead; we "try-harder" to be patient with someone whom we find difficult and end up saying the worst possible things. Being told to "try-harder" generally ties us up in knots as we wrestle with our weaknesses and anxieties.

One of the consoling things about Jesus is that He never said that, in our lives, we needed more effort. However, He did tell us that, in our lives, we needed more light. That is why He invites us to follow Him in His path to happiness. For Jesus' vision of that path is clear and unclouded. In following Him, we see life in new light and this, more than anything, will change our behavior and the way we act.

What are the principle ways in which our ways of thinking and acting are changed in the light of the teaching of Jesus Christ?

  • The teaching of Jesus shows us that religion is not a set of laws but is a relationship. It is always tempting to reduce religion to rules. This was one of the problems with the Jewish religion at the time of Jesus and it was the death of true religion. Some rules are an essential part of any human society and Jesus Himself emphasized the importance of the Law in providing us with boundaries for our behavior. The relationship between God and ourselves, however, like the relationship between parent and child, is not founded on rules but on trust or what Jesus calls "faith." Rules and laws can never be substituted for faith. Jesus came among us, above all, to open our eyes to God's trust in us and assures us that true happiness is to be found in placing our faith in Him.

  • The teaching of Jesus shows us the dignity of each one of us. This is an area where so many people live in darkness. They are blind to the beauty of themselves and of others. For example, Jesus reminds us how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow so "will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith?" He tells us, "see that you never despise any of these little ones ... it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost." Jesus reassures us that those who follow His word are not His "servants" but "friends" who live in the same love of the Father as He Himself.

  • This puts our understanding of the dignity of ourselves and of others in a wholly new light. This is why the Church places such importance on the dignity of every person from the moment of conception to the moment of death. It is the basis of the Church's insistence on the importance of individual conscience and the responsibility we have for informing it, for conscience is our most secret core and our sanctuary. There we are alone with God whose voice echoes in our depths.

  • The teaching of Jesus gives us a sense of direction and purpose. Without help and training, a blind person will bump and bang into every obstacle in his or her path and badly hurt themselves. Similarly, without the light of God's word, we will damage each other and the world in which we live. Light enables us to see where we are going. And Jesus tell us:

"I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark but will have the light of life." (St. John 8:12).

In the light of the words of Jesus, every action of ours takes on new meaning. Each action contributes to the building up of the kingdom of God in this world and moves us towards God, who lives in eternal light. And so we can look forward to the day when, at last, we see God face to face and enjoy true happiness forever.

At the beginning of his Gospel, John refers to the "darkness" of this world. (St. John 1:4). Jesus Himself was often to refer to it and, at the hour of His death, we are told that "darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour" when Jesus cried out in a loud voice saying, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (St. Luke 23:44).

Jesus certainly did not escape the sin and suffering of this wounded world. He was crucified by it. Yet in His life and at the moment of His death, He shed light on the way to a solution. In the giving up of His Spirit which is released for every person to share, He invites us into a new relationship with His Father, He helps us to recognize the dignity of every person and He gives us new purpose. This new vision proclaimed by Jesus Christ is infinitely more effective than any attempts on our part to "try-harder" in the reconstruction of this world and the building up of the kingdom of God.

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