In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus reminds us about our mission as his followers. He doesn’t speak of what we should become, rather he says: you are the salt of earth; you are light the world. How do I see myself in this affirmation? Am I really salt and light of the world?
You are salt of the earth and light of the world
Isaiah 58: 7–10 Psalms 112: 4–9 Corinthians 2: 1–5 Matthew 5: 13–16
Why salt? Why light?
You are salt of the earth. Salt gives flavour to food. Even though today we are cautioned about the amount of salt we take in, nevertheless, that takes nothing away from the quality of salt to give taste to food. Food without salt is tasteless. Besides, in those days when there was no fridge salt was used to conserve food from rotting.
You are light of the world. We are able to see and appreciate the beauty of things, thanks to light. Imagine someone lost in the middle of nowhere in the dark of the night. Spotting a light even a dimming one is source of immense hope. Light guides. It’s hard to explain the importance of light; you appreciate it better when it’s absent.
What do salt and light tell us about Christian witness?
Salt and light are useful always in relation. They are there not for themselves but for others. Salt that remains in the cellar without being put in food remains useless. It will only end up being denatured, losing even its saltiness. Similarly, what’s light if it remains enclosed and doesn’t brighten its surrounding?
That says a lot about our way being Christian in the world. Jesus does not call Christians to confine themselves in the ghetto of their religious likeness. For Christians holiness does not consist in setting themselves apart but in their involvement in creating a world that is more human and fraternal. It calls for rolling up our sleeves and get to work.
Our mission is to help those who have lost the taste of living recover the meaning of life. We are called to be a beacon of hope those who may be stumbling in the dark of hopelessness. Surely, there are people who have lost points of reference in their lives. We can offer them a helping hand.
The gospel challenges the tendency to lead one’s life as though the feet were somehow suspended in the air. Indeed, our desire for the Kingdom of God resides in our commitment to down-to-earth concerns of our world today. We live the values of the kingdom right in this world. That’s why Pope Francis remarks: “I prefer a church which is bruised and dirty because it has been out on the streets…”
How to be salt, how to be light
Certainly that depends on our capacity and the situation where we are. Nevertheless, we can draw also some inspiration from what Isaiah tells the people: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” Why such exhortation?
People pray and fulfil the prescribed rituals, like offering sacrifices, but wonder why God seems not to pay attention. In response Isaiah tells them what kind of religious observance delights God.
Similarly, we also run the danger of living our Christian life in a minimal way: I attend mass, I pray the rosary, I fulfil the novena and I go to all pilgrims of the world. Then I sit back and congratulate myself –you are super Christian. But there’s always something more we can do. Devotions that do not inflame us into a mission of charity and service will only leave us denatured, devoid of taste and dry of oil –no saltiness and no light shining.
We should ask ourselves then, where am I today in my Christian life; salt that’s still tasty and light that still shines? Or have I become salt that’s denatured and a lamp dry of oil?
Back to the source of salt and light
In word and sacrament Jesus refuels us and only after can we go and share with others what we ourselves have received. We are not the Light of the world. It’s Jesus who’s the light of the world. He’s the rising sun (Christmas Eve, 24 December. Christ our Rising Sun) and he’s the Light that John came to bear witness. It means, we are light of the world in the measure that we allow ourselves be enlightened by him.
This Sunday’s Gospel reminds me of my mission as follower of Christ: to be salt and light of the world. So I should be planning already for this week: who’s that person that I want to accompany in recovering the taste of living? Who’s that person who seems to have lost points of reference in life and might be in need of a beacon of hope?
I like some version of the response proposed for the responsorial Psalm for this Sunday: It goes like “In the night of this world shines the light of the just.”
Does my light really shine in the night my neighbourhood?
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