Salt and Light
What is your Gospel reading like these days? What did it say about you yesterday? What will it say about you for today? And what is it going to say about you tomorrow?
Did you ever think about the fact that every day, each of us writes his her own Gospel? The words from our mouths, , the deeds that we do – every day – define and write our own individual Gospel about us. People read us every day – they see us, they hear us, they interact us with us. Sometimes they become part of our Gospel. Is it all Good News?
I don’t know about you but there are a lot of chapters in my Gospel that I would prefer not to read again. I prefer not to read them again because they do not speak to me about who I am or, more precisely, who I am CALLED to be as a Roman Catholic Christian.
Yet, Jesus reminds us in this part of the Sermon on the Mount that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” What beautiful, motivating and commanding words those are. He tells the disciples, the multitudes gathered around him, and ultimately us that we are two of the most precious commodities in the world.
He is reminding us that salt, which was a valuable commodity in his time , and was even the pay of Roman soldiers – by the way, that’s where the phrase came from – he isn’t worth his salt– Jesus reminds us that each of us is valuable. We are as valuable as salt was and is today. He reminds us that, as salt, we can savor the world by how we live our lives. We can affect the way people react to the way we are around them. Now we can keep our salt in a shaker and leave it in the spice rack. Or we can use salt as it is meant to be – active and taste imparting. Just as we can do with our life. Now, we can sit behind a book, or a TV, or hide out in our home in Panama and never interact. Or we can be reminded that as followers of Christ, we need to be the salt that changes the taste of the things we do. We need to remember that it is does not have to be giant task that we accomplish but rather it can be a small gesture – or better yet, a series of small gestures – every day that define us and write our Gospel for us. It can start here, in this moment, in this Church or it can start as we step from here. But to be the valuable salt that Jesus says we are then it has to start or, more precisely, it has to continue every day of our lives.
And what about light unto the darkness? Is there anything that is more apt than that today? Now I know that, in Panama, we have a number of expats who have fled the United States because they believe they are political refugees or they believe that the government they once believed in no longer exists. I won’t go down that path because there are too many fiery political debates that can be had on that subject. But I will say that it the world, in general, has grown darker than the world we knew as children. Wherever we turn, there is a patch of darkness. Whether it be war in still another country, or hunger or famine, or spousal or child abuse or simply human neglect.
Well Jesus stops us and says , “Yes, darkness exists but you and you and I are lights to combat that darkness.”
These are God’s words, defining the way we should live, calling us to act with deeds of concern for others. Salt is active and light is active — not passive. Being salt and light for others is essential to being a follower of Christ.
For each is called to strive for personal sanctification, but what we need to remember is that in order to be holy we must be about the task of bringing others to be a part of the One who is holy.
Living for others and caring for others as Christ did is the clearest expression of love. The Second Vatican Council emphasized the Christian’s duty to be apostolic. Baptism and Confirmation confer duties upon us because in Baptism and Confirmation we are anointed to be a part of the Body of Christ on earth and, like the Apostles, to bring His presence to those around us.
All of us have countless opportunities to be salt and light for others. The very nature of the Christian life consists in doing good things for others in a supernatural spirit, in the life and motivation of Jesus Christ. That is why He told us, “Let your light so to shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
But what if your salt goes flat? How can you restore it? And what if your light is hidden under a bushel? Jesus knows how often we are tempted to be timid; how often we are motivated and controlled by concerns about what others may think of us, how often we are controlled by fear. As a result, sometimes we keep our faith and our religious values hidden. Additionally there are many voices around us telling us to keep our faith in private and away from the public square. They do not want us to “impose our values” on them even by expressing them in public. Faith, they say, is a private matter. What they are attempting to tell us is that people of faith are not supposed to make a difference in our society — that our faith isn’t supposed to be recognized in our secularized, multicultural society. In other words, we are allowed freedom of religion in our Sunday worship services but not when it comes to living out our beliefs in public. How many times in the United States have we seen that refrain played over and over again.
Can we, then, give witness to an evangelical faith in our public lives? YES, I say, we can! But it requires that we have the courage to stand out in our crowded public square. Like salt, the flavor we can give to our society must be sharp and noticeable, not so bland and flat that we are hardly noticed at all. And our humility must be such that we realize that what we believe and say and do is not for our own honor and glory, not for the gratitude we receive but for the glorification of God.
Jesus does not allow us to determine for ourselves what it means to be His followers – He tells what we must be doing and us who we are. This idea of comfortable minimalism is something He will not tolerate. Just doing the “Church thing” is not what our faith is about. The Eucharist gives us strength – His strength – to boldly go out and live our lives as Christians – not as Sunday Catholics.
Our faith in Jesus Christ is not simply so that we can save our own skins. Our faith calls us to work with Christ to reveal God’s kingdom here on earth for the salvation of our world. Anything less serves only ourselves, not others.
Each day, if you do not want to write a Gospel than keep a scorecard. How many times did you – and I—stand up for Christ. How many times did we let His light shine through us? How many times did we flavor the life of another through an act of concern, an act of charity.
Pope Frances reminds us that that the physical building of the Church is not what we are called to. We are called to be about building the presence of Jesus Christ in our society. We are called to build our lives so that others see us as “different.” See us as people who live a life that is marked by compassion in action, loving in action, caring in action, reaching out in action – letting others know that we do more than believe in Jesus Christ, we try to live the words of Jesus Christ.