The Gospel passage (Mt 5:13-16) for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time offers two vivid images that Jesus must have picked up from his Mom, as well as from the simple, daily life of his village of Nazareth.
Salt and light.
In ancient time, salt made life better, more livable, and oil lamps extended activities otherwise hindered at sundown. Mary, together with the other housewives of Nazareth used salt to preserve dried fish, sheep and goat meat, and olives. Naturally, they put salt in many of their dishes and in the dough, they were kneading. As they prepared the bread, the young girls from the village were sent to collect sticks and other fuel for the open-air earthen ovens. The boys too were assigned an important chore: getting slabs of salt from the nearest natural salt formation to be used as powerful catalyst to enhance the heating power of the fuel in the ovens. Eventually, the salt slabs would lose their catalytic properties and be thrown on muddy footpaths.
Salt was extremely precious, truly vital to the point that soldiers were paid also with bags of salt. Hence the word salary. (sal, salis: salt)
In the ancient world (and in some places still nowadays) salt was used to strengthen friendships, to secure solidarity, to seal covenants and important deals. We can also imagine that Mary would use some salt in boiled water to dress wounds and bruises incurred by Joseph and Jesus in their woodshop. The rich could rely on candles and torches to remain active into the night. But the poor could afford only a little oil lamp placed high on a lampstand to shed some weak light around the main room of their hovels.
“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” These are the solemn words that Jesus repeats to us, now.
But how much of their original impact is still left in them?
With the countless comforts and conveniences available to modern living, sodium is now considered harmful to our health… And plenty of light is only a click away. Hence, we might find it hard to appreciate Jesus’ crucial message and solemn charge. These words of his should resonate in us especially while we watch the news and read the newspapers. Our world is slowly turning bland and being enveloped in darkness generated by poor choices imposed on us by those who wield a lot of power over us and fully engaged in the making of a new world order through any means available to them: from subtle persuasion, to shaming, to making life impossible to those who resist their sinister pursuit.
This is the context in which Jesus repeats these words: You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.
As his disciples in the year 2023, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, he needs us to make life better, more fulfilling, meaningful and purposeful for ourselves, our families, our country, and beyond, just the way salt made life better and enjoyable 2000 years ago in Palestine and elsewhere. As his disciples in the year 2023, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, he needs us to raise our light as high as possible on the “lampstand” of our life’s calling, so that those who have been fooled and misled by godless ideologies and destructive trends may find their way back to the mission for which God has called them to life.
The immediacy of news exchange offered us by the media fills us with lots of information but also with lies disguised cleverly so that the damage in us and in new generations might be extensive before we rush to stem it. In this vast arena of disturbing situations and alarming settings created and groomed by the forces of darkness, I would like to single out three key areas in which they have concentrated their efforts to achieve their diabolic end.
To establish a new world order, the forces of darkness are striking simultaneously at our religious freedom, at the concept of traditional family, i.e., the family as intended by our Creator God and at our children, who are the future, plain and simple…
My dear fellow potential givers of flavor and light, the situation of our country and the rest of the western world is so dire that we cannot be salt and light just by shaking of our heads in disapproval and feeling disgusted and worried. Freedom of religion, as guaranteed by the Constitution, is much more than freedom of worship.
As disciples of Christ, we are called to be salt and light, not only inside a church building but anywhere we live and operate so that we can work for a society that operates according to God’s design and laws.
As disciples of Christ, called to be salt and light, we must be totally engaged in the defense and welfare of the traditional family unit, i.e., with a husband and father who is a man and a wife and mother who is a woman, so that the natural openness to life is assured and the rights of everyone, children included, are protected.
As disciples of Christ, called to be salt and light, we must be constantly aware of what goes on in the school in which your kids are enrolled; totally engaged in the policies that are shaping their future; and fully determined to protect your rights. Do not assume anything; do not tolerate that someone might convince your kids to mistrust you and to decide behind your back something irreversibly affecting their life.
If we are determined to work on these three vital areas, the Lord will be pleased. To this end, our constant prayer shall be: “Lord, please tell me how I can be salt; how I can light. I am ready to do it with your help, with your grace.”