I remember once about a year or so ago I wanted to try a new recipe for a family gathering. I was going to make Kahlua pork. I just love Hawaiian luau style pork roast. So, I found my recipe and started getting everything going. My roast was about the right size, a little bigger than the recipe called for. So, I added the ginger, salt soy sauce up sizing each one for the larger roast. I added the cabbage near the end and let it cook in the crock pot. You know everyone smiled and said they liked it but I have to tell you, “That was the saltiest dish I had ever made.”
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lamp stand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.” Mt 5:13-16
Which brings us to today’s gospel. It is the passage about salt and light. Salt was am important preservative in the time of Jesus and certainly was used to season the food they ate. I may have over salted my dish that day but I have also eaten many a dish that was way under seasoned. We are called to be salt to the world. It is important though that we are an appropriate amount of salt. If we season ourselves just right and deliver the gospel message in the properly seasoned way, people will come back, they will come to a relationship with Jesus. Jesus also calls us the light of the world and so we are.
We are the light of the world. Jesus came as the light and after the ascension he called us to be his light to the whole world. I was thinking about light this week. When I was little and going off to my first Cub Scout camp out, our leaders made sure to stress that we should never point our flashlights in someone’s face. We are to only shine on their body and not in the eyes or we might blind someone. As with salt, light is good in the proper proportion. At a romantic dinner with my wife, a little low light is perfect. If I am trying to remove a splinter from my daughter’s hand, I need a lot of light. Our light then needs to be appropriate to our situation.
Our challenge is to discern what the appropriate amount of seasoning or light is for any given situation. At a kid’s birthday party, I will lightly spice the food. At a Super Bowl party, it’s going to be buffalo this and buffalo that. You have to know your audience. Our life and mission as disciples works just the same way. Bringing the light of Christ to someone will take a different form depending on our situation. A man who is hurting over his sick wife does not need to be preached at, he just needs to be heard. A group of teenagers at the youth group may be better being preached to. I had a young man come to me because he knew his life was going in the wrong direction. He needed to hear some tough love and be challenged to make changes in his life. Today this young man is going to marry his pregnant girlfriend, he is sober and has a job. Again, Jesus was brilliant at knowing how to reach people with what they needed to hear. St. Paul was an absolute master. When you read each of his letters in the New Testament, you can hear the different tone he takes with the different communities.
How does that look for us today? How are we called to be appropriate salt and light, realizing that the goal is to bring people to Christ and not to inflate our own egos? We get a pretty good example when we look at the first reading today from Isaiah, chapter 58
Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
In the second reading from 1 Cor. 2:1-5 we read
When I came to you, brothers and sisters,
proclaiming the mystery of God,
I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,
and my message and my proclamation
were not with persuasive words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of Spirit and power,
so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.
Paul did not blow into town to persuasive words and rhetoric but rather with a simple, spirit filled message, namely, Jesus Christ and him crucified. He did not come in trying to show everyone how great he was or how smart he was rather it says he came in weakness and fear and much trembling. He was a man filled with the Holy Spirit. It was this Holy Spirit dwelling in him that demonstrated to the Corinthians the true source of wisdom and power that comes only from God.
And what about this idea of our salt losing its taste? This is what happens when we lose our authenticity, when God ceases to be part of our natural selves. We talk about the idea of being a deacon or disciple as one of being and not of doing. We continue to develop who we are, “being” and from that “being” proceeds our doing. This is why we are called to attend daily mass, pray LOTH, time in adoration and reconciliation. This feeds who we are and helps us to be the good salt that brings flavor to others.
So, as we continue to live our lives of discipleship, let us keep our minds on the goal, bringing other to Christ. Ever call on the Holy Spirit to guide you in being appropriate witness for His glory.