“Heaven Is Other People”
Reflection for Feb. 9th 2020 on IS 58:7-10 & MT 5:13-16
When Jesus in our good news today declares us the light of the world and the salt of the earth, I believe he’s sharing with us a powerful truth – that we are never closer to God than when we are being our truest, most authentic selves. When life is performed under a mask, or beholden to addiction, or enslaved by the fear of the selfish ego, it is as unfulfilling as salt without its taste, as wasteful as a light under a bushel basket. I truly believe that the fruit of our Christian faith and Christian practice is liberation, to find redemptive freedom in the gratitude, joy, and hope of truly believing and responding to God’s love and mercy. How does one do that exactly?
This is why I’m so thankful that our Gospel is paired with a first reading from Isaiah. This is a freedom not earned or engaged with by ourselves, but through encounter and community.
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;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
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.
This past month the excellent TV show The Good Place aired its series finale. The Good Place was a little 4-season gift: a moral philosophy-inspired NBC sitcom, masquerading as a look at the afterlife that really was about exploring this life. It’s original punchline, that Hell is Other People, journeyed eventually to its inverse – that Heaven, that fulfilment and growth and self-actualization, is Other People. Watching it reminded me of why Christ calls us constantly to connect, to look after, to love our neighbor – because in doing so we are connecting, seeing, and loving God.
This week be intentional and thoughtful of the needs you see around you; re-read Isaiah and take some time to pray and reflect on it; try not to look past or ignore the divine that already surrounds you; and finally, remember to be as light and as salty as God had always made you to be.