Salt and Light

FIFTH SUNDAY: YEAR A

Mass Readings: Isaiah 58:7-10Psalm 112:4-9,  1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Gospel – Matthew 5:13-16

As Christians we must be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world. Our good example has to precede us.

In the Gospel of this Sunday’s Mass, Our Lord tells us about our responsibility to the world.

You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world.

And he says it to each one of us, to every one of us who wants to follow him.

Salt gives flavour to food, makes it pleasant, preserves it from going bad. It was a symbol of divine wisdom. In the Old Testament it was prescribed that everything offered to God should be seasoned with salt, signifying that the one who was offering willed that his sacrifice be pleasing to God. The creation of light was God’s first operation in calling the universe into being. Here is a symbol of the Lord himself, of Heaven and of Life. Darkness, on the other hand, symbolises disorder, death, hell and evil.

Christ’s disciples, his followers throughout the centuries, are the salt of the earth: they give a deeper meaning to all human values. They avoid corruption, they bring wisdom to men by their words. They are also the light of the world which shows men the way in the midst of darkness. When they live in accordance with their faith, with their irreproachable and upright conduct, they shine like bright lights in the world. Their light shines out in the midst of their work, their everyday activities, their ordinary lives. On the other hand, how noticeable it is when Christians do not play their part in the family, in society, in the public life of nations! When Christians do not take Christ’s doctrine to the places where they live and work, human values themselves become savourless, losing whatever transcendence they had and very often becoming corrupt.

When we look around us it is not difficult to see the results of men ceasing to be the salt and the light of Christ. Civic life is scarred by the consequences of secularised ideologies, which range from the denial of God or the drastic limitation of religious freedom to the overriding importance of economic panaceas. These depend for their success on bizarre interpretations of human values such as work and production. They stretch from materialism and hedonism, which attack the values of large close-knit families, to false ethical theories concerned with attitudes to newly conceived life. Such erroneous ‘moral’ guidance has been steering generations of young people towards a nihilism that cripples the will and leaves it unable to face up to crucial problems like those of the new poor, of emigrants, of ethnic and religious minorities and so on. Society seems helpless to determine the right use of the means of communication, whilst it puts arms into the hands of terrorists. Many modern evils stem from the defection of the baptised and of believers, fallen away or seduced in great numbers from the profound truths of their faith and the doctrinal and moral vigour of their traditional Christian view of life, a view which had guaranteed a right balance to individuals and to communities alike – John Paul II. We have reached this situation – in which it is necessary to evangelise Europe and the world once again – as a result of the accumulated omissions of so many Christians who have not been the salt and light that Our Lord asked them to be.

Christ left us his teaching and his living presence so that men could discover a meaning for their existence and find the true happiness and the salvation they were created for.

A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, so that it gives light to all in the house.

Our Lord goes on to say in the Gospel,

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.

For this we need first of all to give the example of an upright life, with a clean behaviour, and the very visible practice of the human and Christian virtues in our ordinary everyday living. The world must have light; good example has to lead the way.

In view of this tide of materialism and sensuality that threatens to overwhelm man, Our Lord wants another wave to issue forth from our souls – a wave that’s clean and powerful, as the Lord’s right hand – to overcome with its purity all the rottenness of materialism and undo the corruption that has flooded the world. It is for this, and more, that the children of God have come. It is to bring Christ to so many people whose lives are mingled with our own, so that God may not be a stranger to society.

We will really transform the world – beginning with that little corner of it in which we live and work and where our dreams are awakened – if we start to teach with the testimony of our own lives; if we are exemplary, competent and honest at our work; if, in family life, we dedicate to our children and to our parents as much time as they need; if people see us cheerful, even in times of difficulty and suffering; if we are outgoing and warm towards others. They will have greater faith in our deeds than in any other form of speech, and they will feel drawn to the life that our actions point out to them. Our example prepares the soil in which our words will later come to fruition. Without doing anything unusual or out of the ordinary, Christians can show what it really means to follow Christ in their daily lives, as the first Christians did. Saint Paul encouraged the faithful at Ephesus:

I beg you to lead a life worthy of the vocation to which you have been called – Eph 4:1

We should be known as men and women who are loyal, straightforward, truthful, cheerful, hardworking and optimistic. We have to behave the way people do who carry out their duties properly and who know how to comport themselves at every moment as children of God, without letting themselves be swept along by the current of whatever is in vogue. The life of a Christian will then be a sign by which people will recognise the spirit of Christ. We must therefore often ask ourselves in our personal prayer whether our workmates, our family and our friends are likely to be moved to give glory to God when they observe our conduct, because they can discern in it the light of Christ. It will be a good sign if there is light in us and not darkness, love of God and not lukewarmness.

He needs you, said Blessed John Paul II. In some way you lend him your face, your heart, your whole person, when you are convinced, dedicated to the good of others, faithful servants of the Gospel. Then it will be Jesus himself who attracts people. But if you were to be weak and evil-minded, you would obscure his true identity and would give no honour to him at all.

We should never lose sight of this reality: other people have to see Christ in our straightforward and serene everyday behaviour. They have to see him in us when we work and when we rest, whether we receive good news or bad. They have to hear him when we speak or when we remain silent. And for all this we need to follow the Master very closely.

Excerpt From: Fernandez, Francis. “In Conversation with God – Volume 3 Part 1: Weeks 1 – 6 in Ordinary Time.”

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