February 5, 2023 at Saint Elizabeth Seton & Saint Peter the Apostle Churches in Naples, FL
Isaiah 58, 7-10 + Psalm 112 + First Corinthians 2, 1-5 + Matthew 5, 13-16
If you have ever wondered what you are doing here, and I don’t mean in this church, I mean what you are doing on this earth; or wondered why God created you, the answer is right here in this Sermon on the Mount. If you have not wondered about that question, you are part of the problem and part of the reason why the Kingdom of God is seems so far off and difficult to experience.
Having just described what it is like to be Blessed, Jesus sort of rolls up his sleeves and begins to talk about why we here, and what God expects of us. The images he uses are simple ones to people living at the time Jesus first spoke these words, and they are not complicated for us either. It’s about salt and light, images that say a lot to us about who and what we are in the mind of God. Jesus is not speaking to the crowds here. He is teaching his disciples, you and me. “You are” he says. There is nothing vague or generic here. It is specific. It’s about us. Those of us formed and living the Beatitudes are salt and light to this world.
When tasting well-seasoned food, no one tastes the salt, but it’s there. It does not call attention to itself. If it does, it’s a bad taste. In this sermon, Jesus asks a question. “But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It seems like a trick question, but salt can be diluted. It’s always salty. In other words, the answer to the question is that it’s impossible. So, disciples cannot cease to be who they are seasoning the world with the good news. Like salt in good food, disciples of Jesus bring out some flavor, some pleasure, and some joy to this world quietly, steadily, and consistently never calling attention to themselves, but bringing out the best in others. It means that we compliment not criticize, that where ever we are there is joy and laughter, smiles and good cheer.
“We are the light of the world” says Jesus. No one looks at the sun, but without it we can’t see color, beauty, nor can we see where we are going. No one looks at light bulbs, but because they are there, we can read, we can see one another. Artists know how to use light to draw attention not to the light, but to the figure, to the beauty, or a person or creation itself. And just as salt cannot be anything but salty, light cannot be hidden and still be light.
Salt, you know, is necessary for life. When it is missing from our bodies, there is illness. Sodium Chloride is essential for the body to stabilize blood pressure and absorb nutrition and lots of other things. It comes from salt. Nothing can grow in the dark. Photosynthesis is very process in nature that brings life and growth. You leave a plant in the dark long enough, and it’s dead before you know it.
My friends, Jesus speaks to us today about the very real purpose of our existence as children of God. We’re not here to buy, or consume, or sustain the economy. We are not here to eat, drink, and be merry. Nothing we do should call attention to ourselves, but rather call attention to God, to God’s glory, God’s mercy, and God’s love. We are necessary for life, and not just physical life. Once heard, our call can never be revoked just as salt can never totally lose its flavor. But, if we abuse the call and ignore our real vocation, we are “no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out.”
Living the values expressed in the Beatitudes will make us salt of the earth and beacons of hope for others and perhaps signal the dawn of a new day called the Kingdom of God.