Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Kings 17:7-16 + Matthew 5:13-16
June 7, 2016
“O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!” [Psalm 4:7]
In yesterday’s Responsorial the Psalmist sang, “I lift up my eyes toward the mountains; whence shall help come to me?”  St. Augustine helped us distinguish between the mountain that we’re climbing, and the light that illumines the mountain. Today’s Responsorial, from Psalm 4, helps us fix our gaze upon this light.
“O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!” In the Creed, we profess that God the Son is “Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.” This language describing the Father and Son as “light” is mysterious, even though the New Testament, most especially in the prologue of St. John’s Gospel account, uses the imagery of light to describe God.
Two verses from that prologue draw out the message of today’s Psalm. The Beloved Disciple in his prologue writes: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” Five verses later he writes: “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
In this verse—John 1:14—the petition of the Psalmist is answered. Fallen man, in the person of the Psalmist, cries: “O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!”, and the Beloved Disciple proclaims the Good News of God’s reply to this petition: “we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son”.
Looking up the Vulgate translation of the Psalmist’s petition—“O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!”—led to another aspect of God’s reply. The current Vulgate translation of “let the light of your countenance shine upon us!” is “Leva in signum / super nos / lumen vultus tui”. “Lumen vultus tui”: “the light of your Face”.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis drew on this very imagery in titling the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. He titled this document Misericordiae Vultus. The first sentence reads: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” You might want to read this papal document as a further reflection on today’s Responsorial. In that document, which frames the Jubilee Year that the Church is in the midst of celebrating, Pope Francis offers two quotations from Dives in Misericoria, the second encyclical of St. John Paul II. Listen to one of them, especially mindful of the present-day setting in which the children of our schools grow and are formed before they ever enter our classrooms:
“The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of ‘mercy’ seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it (cf. Gen 1:28). This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one-sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy… And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God”.
 Psalm 121:1.
 John 1:9,14.
 St. John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia 2.