Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time February 5, 2017
Isaiah 58, 7-10 + Psalm 112 + 1 Corinthians 2, 1-5 + Matthew 5, 13-16
St Peter Church in Naples, FL – MS Koningsdam
Two weeks ago, when I was preparing for today’s homily, I was sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the lectionary. As often happens to me at this stage of my life, I began to wonder how many times I have prayed, reflected, and preached these four verses that come immediately after the Beatitudes. It’s all part of the great Sermon on the Mount. I was gazing out the window, and when I looked back down at the table my eyes came to rest on the salt shaker. It dawned on me that the salt in that thing was really totally useless unless it was poured out and mixed with something else. It is that mixing together that causes something to happen. As long as it sits there on the table turning into one big lump as it does in humid Florida, it is useless. With that, I got up and finished washing the breakfast dishes grateful for one more insight into the wisdom of the Gospel.
It is so simple, this truth, and the wisdom of Jesus is so clear. As long as we sit around in this church we are not particularly useful when it comes to realizing our vocation and doing whatever it is God asks of us. We have to mix! We have to get out into the neighborhood, into the office, the shop, the club, where ever we are mixing it up with others and making a difference. We do that best and most effectively when we do it together, as church, as disciples, as Catholics. One single grain of salt is nothing when it comes to bringing out flavors or awakening tastes. The effect of the salt comes from many grains together.
Using such powerful symbols as salt and light, Jesus speaks to us about what it means to be Blessed and live in the Reign of God. We Catholics who experience the magnificence of the Easter Vigil can hardly miss the point when he calls us to be light. Remember how that one candle enters the darkened church, and then what happens as its light is shared and spread throughout the church. The warmth, the beauty, and the intimacy of that light is exactly what Jesus calls us to be. One little grain of salt or one little flicker of a candle is fragile and easily lost, but altogether there are some extraordinary possibilities.
This desire of Jesus for us to be salt and light goes deeper than just those simple images. It speaks of the need for our unity as well, and the immeasurable potential that lies before us as church for doing good. Yet we must be more than just “good”. We have to be good for something. Recognizing this ought to give us more than enough reason to remain faithful and stay with the church and with each other. The privatization of religion and the individualism of our culture and our times should find a challenge in these verses.
The most important thing about each of us is our capacity for goodness. We can be a source of light. We have hands that care, eyes that can see, ears that can hear, tongues that can speak, feet that can walk, and above hearts that can love. Unfortunately, through laziness, selfishness, and cowardice, our light can be dimmed, so that we become the shadows of the people we could be. When that laziness, selfishness, and cowardice creeps over us, the presence of others who share our hope and our faith can keep us from losing our way in darkness.
There is an old expression in English that describes a wise old timer as being “salty.” In the Old Testament, salt is frequently used as a symbol of wisdom, and wisdom is often spoken of as a “light in the darkness”. The deeper and more securely we tie our faith to the Sermon on the Mount, the wiser we shall become and brighter will shine the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.