Today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah seems beautiful; God calls us to be a light for the nations.  Perhaps this teaching was difficult for many Jewish people to swallow when it meant the loss of the Promised Land.  If you remember, when the covenant was established, God promised his people a land of milk and honey.  The land would be a perpetual heritage if they remained faithful to his ways.  If they reject God’s commandments God said they would be dispersed.  They, like us, turned away and sinned.  As such, many of the Jewish people were forcibly moved when the Babylonian Empire conquered the region.  As time went on, in the midst of exile, some Jewish thinkers began questioning if their dispersion was a punishment.  Some recognized they could not be a light to the nations if they are separated from other people. 

I think we as Christians face a similar problem.  We are called to hold fast to our traditional Catholic identity, but also to be a light to the nations.  At times, we have to show that we are not merely people of the world, all while fulfilling our obligations in the world.  There is an ancient Christian writing entitled the Epistle to Diognetus that summarizes the tension we face.  I want to quote from this writing.

"Christians are indistinguishable from others either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.  
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all people, but all people persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life.”  

Empowered through the Eucharist, may we truly be a light to the nations.

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