“You are the salt of the earth.”
“You are the light of the world.”
Here are two of the most direct, targeted expressions uttered by Jesus.
We all know how doctors frown upon those who munch on salty snacks and are rather generous with their salt intake. Personally, I would say that moderation is the key to a healthy living without undue hardships. Since ancient times, salt has meant flavor, zest, permanence, incorruptibility, and it was used also as catalyst added to fuel in cooking.
As far as light is concerned, from remotest history, it has meant life, uplifting of the spirit, enjoyment of anything beautiful and a clear way of avoiding possible harm. Light has been associated with knowledge, discovery, security, peace of mind, celebration, energy, victory, glory.
Today, Holy Mother Church, calls us aside to stop and consider what this double mission of being salt and light entails. Let us see, first of all, what has happened since, for one reason or another, we failed to be the salt of the earth and light of the world.
We can start by recalling all the times we learned of something troublesome and of great concern, and how we shook our head in disbelief and condemnation. We can follow that by going over all those times in which we felt threatened, fearful, apprehensive, and restless. Then, we can conclude by evoking the times we felt so fed up that we said to ourselves or to others, “enough already! Something has to be done about ________ (fill the blank).”
Here is my list in no particular order of importance.
Loss of decency; loss of consideration for others and their feelings, for their rights (life being the first of them all); trivialization of the awesome gift of sex from the Lord of Life; relativism, immorality and amorality, indifference to the plight of the needy and weak; exploitation especially of the most vulnerable members of society; oppression; lack of accountability for personal mistakes; corruption at any level; dehumanization of other people; ethnic cleansing, intolerance of one’s religious beliefs; disregard for conscience rights, imposition based on personal ideologies; morbid control of others and of their minds, hopelessness; emptiness and despair especially in our young people, and so on.
We all have our personal list. Obviously, we cannot tackle all of these evils, not even many of them. But we can each pick a trend, a situation, an issue or two; make them our mission in life, our heartfelt, consuming cause and become salt of and light in them until we can make a difference, until there is a measurable improvement and, hopefully, we could get someone else involved as well.
However, lest we might think that our efforts aim mostly at correcting what is wrong and at redressing what is disordered, I must remind myself and all of you that the call to be salt of the earth and light of the world is given also for achieving the most positive outcome: to bring to fulfillment the Father’s dream for humanity.
This constructive application of salt and light stems from the most earthshaking, historical fact of Jesus’ victory over even the scariest evil: death. We must motivate ourselves way past the mere shaking of our heads and a quick condemnation of the status quo, by allowing our faith in the Resurrection to be our most powerful driving force. We ought to roll up our sleeves and get involved because, in the Risen Lord, we have the guarantee of full success.
Hence, to be salt and light leads us, and those committed to the same cause, to realize that to the huge amount of goodness that is visible around us, we must add at least an equally large amount that is hidden and, thus, known only to our Lord and to those with eyes so pure that they find renewed energy, serenity and self-confidence in this comforting awareness. To be salt and light for the cause of bringing to fruition the Father’s dream for humanity should lead us to point out this hidden goodness to those sitting idle by the sideline of human involvement, so that they too may become active contributors.
And, speaking of what remains mostly hidden: we cannot forget something that is of incredible value; but which is instinctively overlooked because it scares us. I refer to the sufferings of all those who carry their cross with courage and perseverance following in the footsteps of Jesus. Being one with Christ through Baptism and Holy Communion, our sufferings, accepted out of love for Jesus and his Church, acquire as infinite a value as the sufferings of Christ the Head of the Body.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24)
There is even a second passage from the Bible that proves how God finds our tears and sighs very precious.
My wanderings you have noted; are my tears not stored in your vial, recorded in your book? (Psalm 56:9)
We, certainly, might have lost count of our tears and of our sighs; but not God! He uses them all to change the world. Think, for example, of how many tears and sighs it took to make our land the “Land of the free.” Think of how many people had to die to end slavery and racial segregation. Think also of all the good that is done around the clock unbeknownst to just about everybody, like the constant prayers of cloister nuns before the Blessed Sacrament.
To that unknown amount of goodness we can add all the good that we did ourselves, quietly, without mentioning to anyone. And, why not count also the good that the Lord inspires people to do and about which we will learn only in heaven?
We have also to inspire and challenge our children and future generations, along with the throngs of the timid and the uncommitted who are sitting out large portions of their life. We have to convince them to believe in themselves and to use all that pent-up goodness to make their corner of the world a better place for the glory of God and their own fulfillment.
Yes, we are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. This is our mission in life; this is a calling that we cannot put off any longer.