Feb. 8, 2020

FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2020

YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH. YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.

Readings: 1st- Is. 58:7-10; 2nd- 1 Cor. 2:1-5; Gospel- Matt. 5:13-16

Moses wrote to the Israelites in the Old Testament, “Every cereal offering that you present to the Lord shall be seasoned with salt. Do not let the salt of the covenant of your God be lacking from your cereal offering” (Lev. 2:13). In another place he wrote, “This fragrant powder, expertly prepared, is to be salted and so kept pure and sacred” (Ex. 30:35). In each of these instances, the quality of salt is strongly manifested. Salt is used for seasoning. Salt contributes strongly to giving food its spicy quality. Salt is a strong preservative, sustains the taste of food. Salt has also a purifying effect. When the people of Israel discovered that their water had been polluted and complained to the prophet Elisha, he requested that they brought salt to him. Then “Elisha went out to the spring, cast the salt into it, and said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘I have healed this water. No longer will it cause death or unfruitfulness” (2 Kgs. 2:19-21). This is the origin of the blessing of water with the salt which is still the practice in the Church to date.

Christ says to his disciples in the gospel, “You are the salt of the earth.” This is powerful imagery reminding them to display the savory quality of good fragrance and taste for others. The disciples are to serve as preservatives of virtue. They are to serve as purifying agents to those they encounter. They are to bring a healing presence everywhere thereby making others feel the goodness of God in their lives. God’s disciples are signs of his friendship with humanity. They are not to be lost in the crowd but to make people feel their taste by good acts performed in love.

Christ also uses the imagery of light to depict the mission of the disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Already we hear him say of himself, “I am the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12). As light, Jesus brought salvation to mankind. Jesus healed the sick, fed the poor, ate with tax collectors, and raised the dead. That way, he brought the kingdom of God to his followers. Today, he invites the disciples to radiate the qualities that bring God’s presence to those who either see them or listen to their words. The light shines, illumines, guides, and directs. The light also brings warmth to the room. The presence of light is indeed comforting.

The first reading applies this Christian code in practical ways. The prophet Isaiah invites us to perform practical works that demonstrate our faith: “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” (Is. 58:7). These don’t seem like anything strange to us, rather they remind us of how to keep representing the sweet fragrance of the good news wherever we find ourselves. Prophet Isaiah states further, “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” And Christ concludes, “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matt. 5:16).

The best way to make our light shine, to make our salt be tasty is through good works, through acts of charity. Christ wants us to be practical; Christians who are involved in ministry. Christ wants our Christian lives to be impactful. Doing good works within the community and in the world is a great way to express our faith. We are called not to be insipid believers, believers who just cross their arms and pray without action. We are not called to be believers who think and hope that God will come down to shovel the snow after they fall and cover our driveways. We are not called to be believers who look and wish that things will change in our world while we stand aloof. We are called to change the situations and circumstances of others. Faith without good deeds is dead just as salt without taste is useless. Christ reminded us about the last things that will form his judgment of the nations this way, “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Matt. 25:34-37). It is the same thing as saying to them, “I saw your light shine out among those in need. Come and enjoy the eternal light of God’s kingdom.”

Being salt of the earth and light of the world is not an option. For our faith to be not just efficient but dignified, it must have the power to impact others. Faith might be blind in believing God, not blind in doing good works. It must be active and transferable through virtuous acts and charity. Saint Paul puts it this way, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us triumphantly as captives in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him” (2 Cor. 2:14). How many lives have you touched this year already? That’s our takeaway question for this week.