As the master teacher, our Lord often used parables and images we are familiar with in everyday life to make his teachings more easily understandable. In today’s Gospel reading our Lord uses the ordinary things of salt and light.
Salt, as we all know, is used to season food which ordinarily tastes bland, and to cure/preserve perishable items like meat and fish. This was especially true in Jesus’ time when refrigeration was not yet available. The salt killed the bacteria and other microorganisms that caused rot and decay.
Light: In Jesus’ time, the only lamps available were small dish-like containers in which oil was burned. They put it on lamp stands to illuminate or dispel the darkness of rooms and their surroundings.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples: “You are the Salt of the earth….You are the light of the World…..But if salt goes flat it is good for nothing…..No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.” He also tells this to us.
What does Jesus mean when he tells us that we are the salt of the earth?
It means that we are called to “add spice to life, to bring beauty, joy and hope to the world.” We are to demonstrate to the world through our very lives that keeping the commandments is possible and that it brings joy. In a world that thinks sin is inevitable or even desirable, our Christian lives are a witness to the beauty of God’s power and love for all of us and that we have the hope of eternal life.
As salt of the earth, we as Christians are called to prevent further moral decay in this sin- soaked world. The truth that we proclaim about the evil of sin and the mercy of God, and of living a life of holiness is like salt that prevents this world from going the path of decay. We must be salt, but salt in the shaker is useless. It has to come out of the shaker to make any difference. We must go out to the world for the salt to make a difference in the lives of others.
And what does Jesus mean when he tells us that we are the light of the world and that we must shine like a city on top of a hill?
Jesus speaks of deeds. It involves concrete behavior. Our light shines by the way we live, by the choices we make, the behavior we exhibit. For example, it’s when Christians get married and stay married, bring up their children in the Christian Faith; it’s when we tell the truth instead of lie, live chastely instead of fornicating, are courteous, and respectful. It’s when we respect life. It’s when we give to the poor and work for justice, share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when we see them, as the first reading from Isaiah says.
Our light shines when we love instead of hate, seek reconciliation, and pray for our enemies instead of seek vengeance. Our light shines when we walk uprightly and speak the truth in love, but without compromise.
To these we as congregation responded in the Responsorial Psalm: “The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.”
For all the efforts of the disciples and those who succeeded them, elements of the old pagan culture are still with us, or have made a big comeback. In fact this culture is even more aggressive and uncompromising, using deception and lies with the aid of modern technology and the media run by those with a secular world view. This is the culture that emphasizes individual rights as against personal responsibility, the culture of death as against the culture of life, the culture of selfish comfort and convenience as against the culture of service and compassion for others.
Last January 27, hundreds of thousands of men and women of all ages: children, young adults, and old adults joyfully braved the winter cold to march and witness for life. The marchers were like salt aiming to preserve Christian values and destroy elements of a depraved culture. They were like lamps shedding light on what is going on in the darkness and unmasking the evil of the culture of death.
What can we do so that we can truly be salt of the earth, light of the world and, collectively as church, a city on top of a hill?
We must exert efforts to steep ourselves in our Christian values. We can do this
by knowing more about our Faith and what Christ teaches, through scripture study, spiritual reading, attending faith formation sessions, and joining Church organizations and ministries that reach out to the needy
by daily prayer and frequenting the sacraments especially the Eucharist and Penance. Daily prayer connects us to Jesus, our Savior and the Source of all our blessings.
by performing concrete acts of love and service to others. These are the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Good works and compassion for others are in keeping with the principle of Christian love.
by witnessing to our faith in our homes, in the workplace, wherever we are, not only in church, and in this digital age the social media
Responding positively to the challenge of Christ is not easy. But a weak Christianity is a disaster to the world because the world depends on Christians and the Christian Church, like a city on top of a hill, to provide it direction. But a painful truth in history is the weakness of the Christian witness. We are seeing that Mass attendance has gone down from 80% in the 1960s to 20% today. The Christian witness has been weakening and it can be attributed to fear, indifference or ignorance.
Brothers and sisters, at this time the call of Jesus to us to be salt of the earth and light to the world is even more relevant and urgent.
Jesus said that if salt loses its flavor, it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot
As Catholic Christians, let us strive to make a difference in our world. Let us not keep our faith to ourselves. Let us stand up courageously for the values of Christ in the face of the forces that actively oppose and tear down these values. Let us not allow ourselves as Christians and Christianity to become irrelevant, like salt that has lost its flavor, or light that is hidden.
Let us pray hard that we may truly be salt for the world, that we may be light that will dispel the darkness of our present world, and that our Church may be vibrant again, strongly witnessing to our Lord Jesus Christ and glorifying our heavenly Father.
Let us call upon our Lord to help us and for sure He will answer. Amen.
Reading 1- IS 58:7-10
Reading 2- 1 COR 2:1-5
Gospel - MT 5:13-16