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Light for the World

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Putting lamps under bushel baskets is something that doesn’t "connect" in our culture and society. However, it would have been a natural practice in the Middle East at the time of Jesus. Light from oil lamps was the ordinary way to illuminate one’s dwelling. Lighting a lamp meant striking a flint and obtaining a flame with which to light the wick. It was not a difficult task but could be time consuming. If a lamp were adequately filled with oil, the wick would burn for lengthy periods of time. So people tended not to extinguish the light unless absolutely necessary. When the house was deserted or when there was a stiff wind outside, lamps were placed under beds or under baskets to keep them from being extinguished. Remember, each home had an opening in the ceiling to let smoke from the cooking stove escape. When someone entered the house, a stiff breeze could be drawn into the house because of this vent.

Of course, while protecting the flame of the lamp one also defeated the purpose of the lamp. Light from a hidden lamp was minimal. Hence Jesus’ metaphor. If we hide the light which is ours by virtue of our baptism, what good is it. Rather, like a lamp it must be placed so that it does the most good for people.

Today we celebrate the memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, two of the disciples of St. Paul. They were both Greek although Timothy’s mother was a Jew. The two of them figure prominently in the dispute regarding the need for circumcision in the early Church. Paul had Timothy circumcised, perhaps because of his Jewish mother, but he refused to circumcise Titus who was completely Gentile in heritage. Both of these men bore many of the same crosses as did St. Paul because they were his constant companions. Eventually, Timothy was installed as bishop of Ephesus and Titus was installed as bishop of Crete. Their memorial is celebrated the day after the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. They are certainly good examples of men whose light shone brightly during the apostolic era.

 

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