"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
“You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.” In the rite of Baptism there is use of salt and light. “Once you were darkness,” wrote St Paul, “but now in the Lord you are light” (Ephesians 5:8).
Saints and mystics of all times have played on this image of light as a way of speaking about God. The word ‘divine’ comes from a Sanskrit root, ‘div’, which means ‘to shine’.
Light is from beyond our world; it is from the sun. Without sun or moonlight this planet would be a dark place. There would be no life, because every living thing owes its existence to light and is a form of light. We can never be self-sufficient. We are part of the whole physical system and we could never exist on our own. It is useful to remember this after we have read a lot of statements about our being the crown of creation, etc.
The same is true of our spiritual reality. It would be as strange to think oneself spiritually self-sufficient as physically so. “Now you are light in the Lord.”
Does this mean that you are not really light at all? We have to look carefully. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). But he also said, without qualification, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, today’s reading). Are we to imagine that these lights are ‘equal’ in some sense? Meister Eckhart (14th century) gave a useful image for this. He imagines the sun reflected in a mirror. “The sun sends forth its light-rays both from the mirror and from the sun's depth, and yet suffers no diminution.” The reflection in the mirror is a sun, and yet the mirror is still just a mirror. Are the lights ‘equal’? Yes and no. So it is with God, he said. “God is in the soul with His nature, with His being and with His Godhead, and yet He is not the soul.”
The light in us is totally a received light, it is a gift. Yet it is as truly ours as if it came from ourselves. This is because what God gives is not something added to the outside of our being; it is our being itself. God's giving is not a loan, God pours himself out in his gift, the Meister said. “I declare in all truth, by the eternal and everlasting truth, that into anyone who has abandoned self, right down to their ground, God must pour out His whole self in all His might, so utterly that neither of His life, nor His being, nor His nature, nor of His entire Godhead does He keep anything back, but must pour out the whole of it as fruitfulness into that person who in abandonment to God has assumed the lowest place.”