Before the advent of electric lights in the household
there was either candlelight or kerosene light.
There were very few lights beyond that.
It wasn’t until the age of gas where we would come to cities
and one could see the city lit up by what was called a lamplighter.
He would go around and physically light the gas lamps.
Because we have electricity today it is sometimes hard to appreciate
the metaphors we hear in the readings today about being a light in the world.
There was a great English writer, John Ruskin, in the late 18th century,
who one night was waiting for a friend to come over.
He was looking out his window from darkness
with a little candle into complete darkness outside.
He could see nothing but the lamps being lit.
He couldn’t even see the actual lamplighter
but just the light of the light being lit and the trail of light after him.
His friend never did arrive but as he pondered the lamplighter,
he thought that is what a disciple of Christ ought to be
-to be a lamplighter
-to leave a trail of the light for all to see.[i]
It is a beautiful image.
There are really powerful words in the Psalm
as well as the first reading and the gospel reading,
which speaks of being a light in the world.
Christ was calling every one of his disciples to be that light
-to be the light for all to see.
That is our role to be a lamplighter.
The question is what does it mean to be a lamplighter today?
In today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah,
which echoes the very reading we will hear later on from Matthew 25,
which calls us to reach out to the homeless;
to feed the hungry;
to welcome the stranger and immigrant;
to reach out to those who are broken.
That is the role of discipleship.
And that is what we are called to do.
That is what we are called to do and to be for this world.
It is not only an individual task but it is a communal task as well
when we as a community become a light to others.
In this last week, we came to the end of our homeless shelter
here in our parish and we have passed that light onto St. Martin de Tours. The group of nine churches have gathered together
to form this network called Village House
to be the shelter for these 15 women
-we are trying to be a light to all the other faith communities.
There are over 300 faith communities just in the County of Santa Clara.
We are calling a light not to just those 300
but to the entire community beyond.
We are trying to say, by our actions, that it matters.
Yes. I know it is only 15
-it is a tiny percentage of the women and the men
that are on the streets of San Jose.
But what we do is to light a lamp for those 15
and what we have done is left that trail of light for them
so they can believe once again that they are children of God
and that in spite of things that have happened in their life,
they still remain children of God.
That is a powerful light that we have lit in our community.
It cannot just stop there.
It is in everything we say and do that needs to light the way for others to see.
Now I notice that we do not see the lamplighter.
It is not about us as individuals.
It is not even about us as a community per se
but it is about the light of Christ that we give them.
It is drawing attention to who Christ is in our community.
That is what we draw attention to-not the individual
-or the individuals involved but that the light is lit.
Today more than ever we need to light the lamps of others
so that the world can see.
It is so important for us to stand up for those who have no voice;
to say and to act in ways that people will know
that we are to welcome the stranger;
to welcome the immigrant whether they are Muslim
or whether they are Christian.
We must be willing to say that it is not okay;
we must be willing to welcome in those who are broken;
those who are hurt;
those who need our help.
If not us then who?
If not us then who?
We are called in this life to be a light not just for ourselves
-to not just keep this light to ourselves
but to light the lamp of others;
to help point the way to Christ
and the light in this world that he has called us to be.
Today as we come forward to the table once more
to be fed and to be nourished;
to be that Body of Christ,
we come also to be lamplighters
-to leave a trail of evidence of Christ’s light in a very darkened world
that needs that light.
You and I are the lamplighters.
[i] Sandra DeGidio, OSM, “Homily Helps,” (St. Anthony Messenger Press: Cincinnati, OH, February 2017)
In today’s first reading we hear from the Prophet Zephaniah about
“a remnant of Israel.”
When we think of the word “remnant”
leftovers come to mind, more specifically garment leftovers.
He refers to the people of Israel as the remnant of Israel!
How would you like to be called the leftovers of Israel?
It does not sound very inspiring. Right?
-You are a remnant!
For a moment let’s think of the fabric
-a leftover piece of fabric like a remnant that is leftover.
But let’s reframe this somewhat.
Imagine that we have some precious tablecloth for example;
it was a cloth sacred because we got the fabric from Jerusalem or something.
If we had a remnant left over from that, it is important to us
and we would hold onto it in case you might need it.
If the original sacred cloth was lost,
then the one piece of remnant is particularly cherished
because it is all we have from the original, sacred cloth.
That is the mindset that Zephaniah was trying to get across
-that the Israel has been lost and now they are the remnant.
The only ones left of the original and they must endure.
If we now apply this to Christ,
Paul is applying this very same thing to Christ’s message
in today’s letter to the Corinthians.
He does not use the word “remnant” but he comes very close to it.
“You are the leftovers,” he says
“you’re the weakest of the weak.
You’re nobody but you are made strong in Christ.”
Remember Jesus only chose a small few, twelve;
from that twelve, over 2,000 years later, billions of people
have heard the message of Christ.
There has always been a remnant few in every generation
who have remained faithful.
The remnant few who have remained true to Christ and his message.
Today, we are that remnant.
We are the faithful ones left.
There are lots of other people sleeping in this morning in San Jose.
And we are not. We are here.
We have chosen to offer praise and worship to God
because somehow, somewhere something is different for us
and that is what makes us a remnant.
But we must not stop here.
We must make sure we truly become the remnant few
-the ones that pass on this powerful message of Christ.
Why? Because no one else is going to do it except us.
So, what is that message?
Thus, enter the Beatitudes.
Christ reminds us of what we are called to do
and even though we will be persecuted in his name because of it
-that will be what we will be remembered for.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are those who take care of others.
We try to do this here at Holy Spirit Parish
-I think we go to great lengths to be this remnant
-to be this faithful few
-who take it seriously to love others as Christ has loved us.
Just a few days ago we closed our Village House shelter for 15 women.
We are only one of 300 churches in our county
that are willing to be that remnant few.
There are only 14 of us, church communities, right now, who are doing it.
It is not solving the homeless crisis.
I have heard that from many of you.
What it is doing is testifying that it matters, that we care.
It matters that we want to love even if it is a remnant few that we love.
And we don’t stop there.
We go to Nicaragua.
We go to East Texas.
We go to Sacred Heart.
We go to San Francisco.
There are lots of things we do.
And so, we should.
And we should continue to find other ways to proclaim
through our actions that we believe in the Christ of weak.
Christ did not come to the highest
-this is what Paul is saying today.
He came to the lowest.
He came to those who were broken;
those who were diseased;
those who were left out;
those on the periphery and he touched and healed them.
That is what we are called to do
-to speak up for the homeless and to give them a home;
to feed the hungry;
to reach out to the immigrant;
to reach out to those who are broken and affected;
and to speak up for those who have no voice.
Now more than ever,
the world and our country needs our voice of compassion;
of gentleness; of love; and of tolerance.
Our world so desperately needs the remnant of Christ.
If not us, then who?
We are the remnant few.