Isaiah 58: 7-10, First Corinthians 2: 1-5, Matthew 5: 13-16
In nature nothing lives for itself. Everything lives to serve the need of the other. Examples are air, water, land, plants, animals etc. These serve the need for human living. The three images used in the gospel today are Salt, Light and a City built on a hilltop. What is interesting about all three of these images is that they are not self-serving. The purpose of these three things is to serve the needs of others. We are yet to understand our Christian calling if we have no positive impact on the lives of those around us, especially those in need. Authentic service to God has real and practical effects on the welfare of those around us. Today, we live on our own, we are sometimes always interested only on ourselves, sometimes we become so self-centered forgetting that this type of life is not just unchristian but anti nature.
Every Christian is called by God to be an influence on the world around him. Jesus began teaching this concept early in his ministry when he told his disciples that he would make them fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19) Then, in the Sermon on the Mount, He used the illustrations of salt and light. (Matthew 5:13-16) Both salt and light have properties which affect things around them. Let us take these images one by one.
You are the Salt
Salt is used to enhance the taste of the food we eat. Anything food without salt loses its taste. Salt is also a preservative. Before refrigeration or canning, most meat was preserved in one of two ways. It was either dried and smoked or it was packed in salt. Packed in salt, meat would last for years. It was a preservative. Salt preserves from decay. Salt is also a curative. It has medicinal qualities. Before the time of modern medicine, salt was used as an antiseptic. Salt was often times poured into an open wound to clean it of any impurities.
Secondly, we use salt to make things taste better. It is a seasoning that enhances the flavour of food. Our presence and actions should touch and enhance the lives of people around us. This is what we are already not what we should. Jesus says “You are” not you may or you will. It is already in our bloodline to be a source of change for the world around us.
Being a preservative, we are called to preserve the Biblical standards of faith and morality. Our presence in the world should heal and not to destroy nor bring disunity. We are to bring hope and healing to the broken hearted. We are called to season the world with the flavour of Grace. We are called to help preserve the world from decay. We are called to help bring healing. Do you know that salt also causes thirst? so we are called to make people become thirsty for Jesus.
You are the Light
One simple function of the light is that it must dispel darkness. By dispelling darkness, it brings joy again, shows the best path to follow and reveals things as they are. Even God couldn’t create in darkness, and the first thing God created is light. Once light appears, darkness goes into extinction. What does our presence do in the life of those around us? Are we instruments of light or darkness? Can our actions and presence bring joy or sorrow? In your family are you instrument of progress or backwardness? Do we bring souls to God or sending them away by the way we live? Jesus has appointed us to bring light to dispel the darkness of the world. It is a sacred duty.
How to be a Light and Salt
Firstly, when Jesus is saying “You are” he is actually pointing at those disciples and the people listening to Him. These are people who have already decided to follow Him. To be a true light and to make our light shine, we have to make a decision to follow Jesus and listen to Him, then try to live like Him who is the true Light of the world (John 8:12)
Finally, from the first reading, the only ways to be a light and salt for the world is to be useful, it is to be guide and helper to the poor around you. In this point you shine in the darkness of their lives. We become light not when we show people we can rule and intimidate them with our positions, it is not when we brag with what we have, it is not when we show off our material possessions in the public but when we give bread to the hungry, save the needy, shelter the homeless when we see one naked and cover him, when people try to destroy the image of your co-worker or partner but you stand by him to save his or her nakedness, when we refrain from speaking badly of others, gossiping and slandering others. When we serve or do things not just for our own gain but for the good of others, the first reading says, it is then shall our light break forth as the morning. This is the true fast, this is the only way to win Gods favour and heart, this can also be the secret of answered prayers, the reading says, when we do this, then you shall call, and the Lord will hear. Whatever position, we acquire, whoever we are, whether in the family, places of work, positions, offices etc, remember you are there to serve God through the people and not for our own personal glory.
One thing we do not need to forget is that Salt has little influence if it is not used but of great value once it is used in the right proportion. Jesus also says Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, A lamp is set upon a lampstand where it can provide light for the house. This is our calling. We are not supposed to hide thinking it is any other body’s business. If we keep quiet, things are going to decay. We are useful to God only when we are useful to the world and to the people around us. We have a responsibility to transform the environment in which we find ourselves, just as salt transforms food. Christians sitting alone in the comfort of their homes are unlikely to make much of a difference to the people. We are useful to God only when we useful to others positively.
Like eyeglasses, the usefulness of salt exceeds its size. It is inexpensive but greatly needed and valued by all. Despite how small we can contribute to the world, despite how common it may look like; it can make a huge difference and impacts in the lives of many. Jesus warns us not to be complacent. If salt loses its taste, it becomes worthless. Salt cannot change its chemical composition; so, it cannot lose its taste and value unless it is adulterated. In Jesus’ day, much salt was recovered from the Dead Sea and was adulterated with various substances. At some point, the adulteration could become so pronounced that people would discard the salt as worthless.
The danger we have today is that we are tempted to give too much credence to the values generated by the world and too little to the values found in the Bible. Worldly ideals have infiltrated into the moral fiber of our Christian upbringing. This continues to affect us, affect our mission, affect our God given destiny, we now look up to the world instead of Jesus who is the true light. And now instead of being a source of change, we bring into the world more moral decay, we lose our identity and forget who we are and our mission. When that happens, we cease to be salt and become “good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.” May God give us the grace to understand our Christian vocation and be a source of compassion, hope, love, help moral upbringing and upliftment for the needy ones around us. Amen, God bless you.