Making the difference as Salt and Light in our World!
Readings: (1st: Ish 58, 7-10; Ps 111, 4-9; 2nd: Heb2, 1-5; Gos: Matt 5 13-16)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
This 5th Sunday’s celebration is overshadowed and punctuated with a great “If.” This is because of the question: How much more brightly would that light shine “If” we who are Christians were really like Christ? The Church of Christ is a light in the darkness. So we as members are supposed to be light shining in the darkness of the world.
In our first reading this Sunday, the Prophet Isaiah provides us with the recipe required for our light to shine. They include: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless poor, cloth the man you see to be naked and turn not from your kin” These are the basic necessities of life which forms the back bone of the Universal Declaration of Thirty Human Rights created by United Nations 1948. In fact they are not just Human Rights, but “Fundamental Human Rights”: Food, Shelter and Clothing. Depravation of these rubs humanity of dignity and pride. We as Christians and light therefore must ensure that no one is deprived of these because doing this will amount to structural injustice and a sin against Charity and Providence. Therefore, we must be “that good man” the Psalmist of today talks about “who is light in the darkness for the up right,” by standing out and up, tall and insisting on justice for the poor and the oppressed.
In the second reading, Paul proved to be a practical example of the light that shone among the Corinthians. His presence illuminated their darkness and added flavour to their soured lives. Also as salt he helped in preserving their salvation. He did this not only through his teaching or words but through his actions and deeds. He recalled thus: “When I came to you, brothers it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy but simply to tell you what God had granted.” Yes, Paul did this in a very simple way and equally lived out what he preached. He proved to be indeed the light through which the pagan Corinthians came to see, and the salt which sweetened their lives for good. Therefore, our encounter with people must leave them better than we met them. It must rub off the dust of worry, shame, despair, and disappointment; cast off the veil of ignorance that sets them back, and it must make them appreciate the Truth and draw closer to God. Like Immanuel Levanas, we must continually ask ourselves: “How do I encounter the other and leave him better than I met him?”
In today’s gospel, Jesus uses salt in conjunction with light in continuation of his Sermon (Beatitudes) on the Mount. During the Old Testament times, salt was used to season the sacrifice offerings, which people made to ask God for forgiveness, and they did so as a reminder of their covenant with God: “And every oblation of your meat offering shall you season with salt; neither shall you suffer the salt of the covenant of your God …all your offerings you shall offer salt” Also, during those times land agreement was sealed with a gift of salt, which showed the strength and permanence of the contract. Therefore, salt points to the effects of a truthful permanent agreement, and as such it changes behavior. In addition, salt was a symbol of God’s activity in a person’s life as it penetrates, preserves, and aids in healing. So that is how God becomes active in our lives. Once we turn to him and allow him to penetrate every aspect of our lives, he preserves us from the evil around and heals us from our wounds. Jesus calls us “salt of the earth” in Matt 5:13. As followers of Christ what qualities are we then supposed to have as salts? First, we must always be faithful to Him and also remember God’s faithfulness to us just as salt when used with sacrifice recalled God’s faithful covenant with his people. Second as salt, we must make a difference in the flavor of the world we live in. Finally, we are to counteract the moral decay in society, heal its wounds and preserve its life just as salt helps wounds heal and preserve food from decay. Anything short of this we have lost our taste! Any time a Christian gets so entangled to the world to the extent of avoiding the cost of standing up for Jesus, such a believer has lost his characteristic and unique quality of saltiness. Therefore as salts the onus lies on us to preserve the goodness of the world and prevent dangerous, cantankerous and nefarious ubiquitous microorganisms from initiating decays in our world.
Again, Jesus refers to us Christians as the light. In spite of referring to us as light it suffices to note that, Jesus Himself is the Great Light and of course the source of our own light: Jesus is “… the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world” (John 1:9). He brings light into the darkness, helps us see our way to God, and shows us how to walk along that way in this world. Therefore as Christians we are to reflect or in other words, to witness God’s light unto the world. ‘Witness’ here simply indicates our role as reflectors of God’s light and pointing others to the source of our light. As Christians, we must be ready to expose darkness which includes what is deceptive, foggy, unfaithful, untrustworthy, abusive and malevolent. As light, we must help in raising the fallen state of humanity, our society and melt away both spiritual paralysis and apathy; we must represent “what is good, pure, true, holy, and reliable” (Phil 4, 8). Yes if as Christians we are to be “salt” and “light” we must be good ones, and not counterfeit or the good for nothing types. Of course, light can be very useless especially if it the very- low current type.
Since “charity begins at home,” we must not hide our light. Especially, we must not hide it at home and in our relationships as these are part of the missionary fields we are all called to minister unto. Our families and relations are fertile fields for planting the seeds of Truth. As believers, first and foremost our missionary work is to let our parents, children, spouse, siblings, friends, colleagues, and neighbors see our light through our faith and Spirit. Therefore our light must shine bright so that we can be sure that they see the love, helpfulness, generosity, and joy in us as the connecting glue that makes us all one heavenly family. When we become aware of the light that we are in Christ, we will become aware of the gifts God has given us and so, will find that he will give us the power we need to accomplish our destiny. Our destiny then is simply whatever task God gives us. He will place us in our rightful position, on a candlestick so that we can give light unto all that are in the house and on the hill. As Pastor Tim Chaddick always says,“We must not conceal what God has made clear.” It is however sad to note that many of us have done just this! We have put ourselves “under a bushel,” by hiding from sight and being reluctant to be identified as Christians.Corruption, avarice, greed, bitterness and rancor, over ambitiousness,complacency, resentment, embarrassment, stubbornness of heart, self-empowerment, disobedience, etcetera. We must ask ourselves this Sunday: What bushels do I need to remove in order to let my light shine? Therefore, being light in darkness calls for courage, dexterity, and developing of a very strong moral and spiritual fiber; being very prayerful, being equipped with the word of God, vigilance, discipline and faith in God (Eph 6, 10-20).
Brethren, let us prayer this Sunday as we strive to make a difference in our world: “May the salt we use and taste each day remind us that we are now God’s covenant people who actively help preserve, purify and heal our world. May the light in our life that we take for granted, from the lamp in home or the street to the flash light and to our relations, remind us of the very Source of Light who is the Source of Life – Jesus, and may we never take him for granted.”
Peace be with you!