In today’s Gospel, we hear discipleship compared to salt and light. Let’s talk a little about this simile of salt and light.
We know that salt (sodium) is necessary for good health, but too much sodium leads to health problems. The disciples would have understood Jesus’ message about salt in two ways:
- They would understand that salt is used to enhance the flavor of food (it’s still one of the most common ingredients in modern cooking), and
- They would know that salt is used to preserve foods (for example, before refrigeration, people would apply a thin layer of salt to fish and meats to help preserve them)
So, what Jesus was telling his disciples, as he prepared them for their missionary work was: Carry out your mission with enthusiasm and passion (add flavor to your mission), and be steadfast in preserving and sharing the faith that Christ had taught them.
We also hear Jesus warning that if salt loses its taste it is no longer good for anything and should be thrown out. Technically, salt never loses its flavor, but it can become less effective when other things are added to it, or it becomes impure. Jesus was telling disciples: do not allow your faith and beliefs to be compromised by what they may experience in the outside world (In effect, Jesus was telling the disciples: Be in this world, but not of this world).
Those are lessons that apply to us today. Through our baptism, we are called to be missionaries (to help spread the Good News of Jesus). We are expected to carry out our mission with zeal (with enthusiasm and passion). And our missionary work needs to be “grounded” in the truth so we can both enhance and preserve the Good News of God’s love and mercy.
Another “fun fact” about salt: Salt is referenced many times in Scripture. In all of the times salt is referenced, it is never described as existing only for itself (you wouldn’t go to the movies and order a large box of salt, would you? No, you’d go for the mega bucket of popcorn and use salt to flavor it).
Our faith doesn’t exist for ourselves alone. Our faith is personal, but it is also communal. We are called to live and work in community and to share our gifts and resources with others.We hear this in our First Reading when we are reminded to:
- Feed the hungry
- Shelter the oppressed and the homeless
- Clothe the naked
- Don’t turn your back on others, but help them
God is telling us to use our faith to take action! And when we do this, “Then [our] light shall break forth like the dawn.”
I was talking to a deacon friend of mine, not too long ago, who told me about a woman he was counseling. While protecting her identity, he shared her predicament with me: The woman had come to him to discuss problems she was experiencing with her 12-year old son. She said her son threw a fit every time he had to go to attend class at the Parish School of Religion (PSR). He complained that he just didn’t like PSR. He said he was too busy with other extracurricular activities, and that he was too tired to go at the end of the day.
After probing into the problem a little more, the deacon asked the woman how her son felt about going to Mass. The woman replied, “Oh, we don’t usually go to Mass” and rattled off a litany of reasons. She said, “neither my husband nor my son like to go to Mass, so it’s a hassle to get them to attend. I often work weekends, so scheduling time for Mass can be difficult. And, frankly, my job wears me out, so I like to sleep in on Sundays.”
Do you detect a parallel here? The son was using the same excuses for not going to PSR as the mother and father did for not going to Mass.
I share this story not to single out families (in full-time or part time school at the parish) who don’t attend Mass on Sundays. I share this story to demonstrate how our actions can reflect negatively on our children, our freinds, and our family – especially when it comes to sharing our faith.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the “light of the world” and that they “must shine before others, that [others] may see [their] good deeds and glorify [God].” Were these parents a shining light for their son? From what I heard, I would guess “no.” But I can empathize with the woman in this story.
Its difficult for kids to attend PSR after a full day of school. Scheduling for busy families can be a problem. Being a parent is hard … and tiring … and sometimes frustrating. But it can also be quite gratifying.
For me, as a parent, life is most gratifying when I see my children behaving in ways that reflect the goodness of God. I like to think that their mother and I had some influence in those “good things” they reflect in their life.
We are all called to be that good example for others. To be the “Light of Christ” for others. But, to be the “light of the world” does not mean that you have to be the source of that light. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We are not called to be God, but to be a reflection of God, of His love and mercy.
Here’s an example that explains this in everyday terms. Think about where we are in the seasons. We are half way through Winter. Even in the midst of the coldest temperatures and most snowfall we’ve seen in years, we see signs of hope. The sun is staying out a little longer each day. Even in the bitter cold, we are witnessing some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
But ask yourself: Is the sky the source of that beauty? Do the clouds dictate the colors? No, these awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets are the sky and the clouds allowing the light of the sun to reflect in beautiful hues.
We are not the source of the light in our world … God is
Today’s readings help us step back and reflect on we are living our lives as Christians.
- Are we being the best versions of ourselves, reflecting God’s love and mercy?
- Are we being good examples for others by our words and actions?
- Are we helping share the Light of Christ with others?
These are questions we might reflect on this week.
As we prepare to celebrate the Eucharist, let us remember that salt doesn’t act alone. We are a community of believers, called to gather at the Lord’s table, and to go forth to live our faith with zeal.
Through our Baptism, we are called to be light to the world, called to be a reflection of the beauty of God’s love and mercy.
May you have great week, reflecting God’s love and mercy in all that you do!