Is 58, 7-10; 1Cor 2, 1-5; Matt 5, 13-16
SALT OF THE EARTH AND LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Our readings of today present what Christian life should be – a shining example for others to see, feel and taste. The gospel reading, in particular, describes it succinctly, as salt and light. Jesus says that, we, Christians, are salt and light to our world. Salt perks up the taste of food and keeps things fresh. Light makes us see and enjoy God’s beautiful creation. The text of today’s gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount that we started reading last week, 4th Sunday of Year A.
Whenever someone is looking for a new job, it is a good idea to ask to see the “job description” for that job. A job description lists what is expected from the particular position. People end up frustrated in their jobs when what is expected is not clear. Today’s gospel gives us the Christian’s job description in a general manner. In the weeks ahead, the Lord will spell out the specifics of how this plays out in daily life. Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth. … You are the light of the world” (Mtt 5:13 & 14). He adds, “. . . your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.” Jesus is simply saying the same thing in two different ways. He tells us that we should have an impact on the world around us.
- SALT OF THE EARTH
In the days of Christ, salt served a couple of different purposes.
- The first and most common use of salt was as a preservative. At a time when refrigerators did not exist, salt was used to keep things from going bad and becoming rotten, particularly meat. Salt slowed the rate of spoilage. Jesus tells us that the world needs us to be the followers of Christ that we were called to be. If we want to make an impact on the world’s system, we must be distinct from it, not identical to it.
Think about how a conversation might change when you walk into a room. A coarse joke may stop. People may (or may not) apologize for their profane language. People may suddenly justify their behavior when they sense the higher moral standard of someone who follows Christ boldly and fully. It is not just with priest or pastor (even though we have seen some people turn very red and begin choking when they learn who we are and what we do for a living). Jesus warns us about losing our saltiness. This happens when we adapt to the world in which we live. St. Paul tells us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)
- Salt adds flavor. We have probably all reached for table salt on occasion to add a little more zest to our meal. In the same light, the gospel brings meaning, purpose, joy, direction, and life to the world in which we live. If you look at history you will see that the church more than any other institution was responsible for the beginning of education. Some of the earliest and most famous schools were formed by missionaries and churches. It was the church that started hospitals and established the first orphanages. It is hard to imagine what this world would be like without the influence of Christians. We cannot give up looking for ways to help others. We must not stop being salt/light in the world.
- Salt produces thirst. If you are trying to make money at a concession stand put lots of salt on your popcorn and people will return to buy beverages (and you can even raise their price a little). Our job is to live in such a way that the world around us begins to thirst for a taste of the goodness and grace of God. As we live out our faith it should lead others to see that we have what they have been looking for. Hopefully they will want to learn about our Savior. Not everyone will (some will be hostile), but some will look up for the WORD.
- LIGHT OF THE WORLD
In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” Jesus does not tell us to “BECOME the light”; He says that we ARE (already) the light of the world. We are light by virtue of our relationship with Him. Because He is in us, we become the lens through which His light shines.
Jesus describes our current world in the following terms: Instead of it being a decaying mess, it is a PLACE OF DARKNESS. Darkness is the absence of light. In darkness, one cannot see where one is or where one is going. This seems an accurate description of our time. People run after every new fad and programme available to them. But nothing seems to satisfy. The only way out of the darkness is by following THE ONE WHO IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD: The Lord Jesus. The only way most people will find the Lord, is by seeing His reflection in us. Light, like salt, does a couple of things:
- It helps you to see.This is why you have headlights on a vehicle and streetlights along the roadway. This is why most of us make sure we have flashlights and candles available for power outages. Without light you run into things and you become disoriented.
The Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light for eyes. It helps us see what is and helps us understand what life is about. His light guides us to what is true, beneficial, and life-giving. Therefore, the teaching of God’s Word is not merely an academic exercise. Unfortunately, many listen to the Bible like they listen to the air Hostess as she explains the safety features on the airplane.
- Light exposes what is hidden. Light makes it possible to identify dangerous obstacles but it also exposes what we would like to keep hidden. “If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of the world” (Jn 11:9). It is a common fact that the closer one gets to Jesus, the more clearly one will see one’s own sin. No one likes to see his/her own sin. No one wants to hear that what he/she is doing is wrong. Sinners are horrified by what they see. They try to destroy Christians so that the “mirrors” will go away.
- Light shines most brightly when in the darkest places. Shining flashlights at each other when it is noon on a sunny day will have no effect. We will find it hard to even know if the light is turned on. Jesus tells us to shine for the world. Shine your light into the darkness; that is where it is really needed. Spend less time in your own little well-lighted, all-Christian, world. Instead, spent more time out there in the darkness, where there is un-belief. We need to cultivate friendships with non-Christian. We need to find that balance which allows us to be in the world but not become of the same mindset with the world
- SOME LESSONS FOR OUR DAILY LIVES
- Jesus tells us that there is no such thing as a “secret Christian”. Jesus was clear; you do not hide your light under a bushel. You must let it shine for all to see. And as to salt, Jesus says when salt is no longer salty, it is worthless. For salt to function, it has to come out of the salt container. If you are trying to follow Christ while at the same time living like everyone else in the world, then you are not really trying to follow Christ at all! And, if you are not trying to follow Christ, then it only follows that you are not A TRUE BELIEVER, you may merely be just A FAN.
- Our role in the world is important. The world may try to silence the BELIEVING CHRISTIANS, but we must not let that happen. No matter what the consequence might be, Christians must continue to stand on the truth of Scripture! The answer to the world’s problem is a Saviour. The problem of our world is SIN and the answer is JESUS. Everything else is like a bandage on a severely fractured limb. It gives the illusion of doing something, but it doesn’t solve a thing.
- We must guard against the real danger of compromise. With the way the world is decaying so rapidly, we have to ask a painful question: have we lost our saltiness? Is our light in need of recharging? Has the church lost her true identity by trying to be “acceptable” to the world? Are we, Catholics, not like everyone else promoting bribery and corruption, consulting diviners and marabouts, cheating in the market, telling lies, and doing ‘FOUR-ONE-NINE’, like everyone else – under the pretext that “everyone does it”? When you have a job, and you spend all your time doing what other people want you to do; if you allow everyone else to adjust your job description to suit them, you will fail at doing what you were hired to do. In this respect, St. Paul leaves us in no doubt as to what is expected of us: “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, having nothing to do with the futile works of darkness but exposing them by contrast. The things which are done in secret are things that people are ashamed even to speak of; but anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into light” (Ephesians 5:8-16).
In the 1st Reading that comes from Is 38, the prophet insists that while we may sing enthusiastically, pray fervently, and generally enjoy ourselves in our churches, without a commitment to God’s compassionate justice, our worship may have a serious defect. He insists that a true Christian comes to the side of those suffering injustice at the hands of authorities, those imprisoned for acts of conscience, those denied their fair share of the land’s produce, those denied housing and proper clothing, those turned away even by their own relatives.
Christians need to be constantly engaged in building a better nation, a nation that is not merely materially prosperous, economically sound, but one that is founded on sound moral principles such as justice, equity, freedom, respect for human rights, accountability, probity, fear of the Lord, and above all, to crown them all, LOVE.
In the weeks ahead Jesus is going to get very specific as to what salt and light should look like in the world. The way to start is to carry out well the tasks which our job description prescribes. So, let’s make a difference this week.