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Let the Scriptures Speak
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year A
February 5, 2023
Dennis Hamm, SJ

You are the light of the world.
(Matt 5:114)

Being Light, Unimpeachably

When Jesus calls his followers “the light of the world,” he speaks out of a powerful prophetic tradition. The Hebrew prophet of the Babylonian Exile whom we call Second Isaiah articulated that image of Israel’s vocation memorably when he called Servant/Israel “a light for the nations” (Is 42:649:6). Later, in the reading we hear today (First Reading), a later, post-exilic prophet we call Third Isaiah gave a new precision to that image. This prophet draws a precise connection between meeting human needs and both finding light and becoming light. The words are worth quoting in full:

Thus says the Lord:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed. …

Further, to make sure we do not miss his meaning, just a few verses later Isaiah writes:

If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

When I wrote this reflection, we were impeaching our president. Some see this as a magisterial working out of our constitutional process. Others see it as an irresponsible and vindictive abuse of legislative, executive, and judicial time, talent, and treasure. Meanwhile, the bombing of Syria is treated as a mere sidebar, while the loss of civilian life is dismissed as “collateral damage.”

Imagine our nation as a group of five families and our collective earnings as a hundred dollars.
However one interprets these actions, issues crying out for action on the level of public policy go unaddressed. For example, it has been observed that even as today our economy is promised to “make America great again,” the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.

Someone has described our situation in the following terms. Imagine our nation as a group of five families and our collective earnings as a hundred dollars. The wealthiest of the five takes home $47 and the poorest of the five is left with $3.60. Meanwhile, as family #1 grows richer and family #5 poorer, what the middle family takes home, around $17, has scarcely changed in a quarter century. Is this not a matter deserving of legislative, executive, and judicial attention? One suspects that Isaiah and Jesus would say so. Our Pope and bishops have tried to alert us to this injustice.

If we seek healing and release from malicious speech, and if we hope to find light and even become a light to others, the mandate of Isaiah to attend to human needs still rings loud and clear.

Dennis Hamm, SJ
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Fr. Hamm is emeritus professor of the New Testament at Creighton University in Omaha. He has published articles in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, The Journal Of Biblical Literature, Biblica, The Journal for the Study of the New Testament, America, Church; and a number of encyclopedia entries, as well as the book, The Beatitudes in Context (Glazier, 1989), and three other books.

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C).
This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go

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