Browsing Homilies

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 58:7-10 | Ps 112 | 1 Cor 2:1-5 | Mt 5:13-16

You are salt, and you are light.

What does Jesus mean when he calls disciples “salt of the earth?” Salt in the ancient world was a “critical necessity” used to season, preserve, and purify foods; to ratify covenants; for liturgical purposes; and to signal “friendship and loyalty.” To Jesus’ followers at the time, the integral and multifaceted nature of salt would have been evident. Like salt, disciples preserve, purify, and judge, drawing out the savor of God’s love in the world.

The call to discipleship isn’t a simple path; but rather, it’s complex and personal, and the actions of a disciple must be discerned. Our shared call to discipleship bonds us, yet we are put to use in “seasoning” God’s message of love in many, varied ways.

These metaphors of salt and light come just after Jesus has proclaimed the Beatitudes in Matthew’s gospel, the Sermon on the Mount. He has just articulated blessings upon those often overlooked—the meek, the peacemakers, the persecuted—and now he dubs his disciples salt and light.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” Each member of the Body of Christ offers their personal gifts, their lives, their callings, thereby “seasoning” the Gospel message in their own way. It may be tempting to live our faith in private, but Jesus likens this to hiding our light from a world desperately in need. The light spoken of in today’s gospel isn’t a spotlight focused on us but rather a soft and sacred light that points toward Christ, the true source and Light of the World. This light cannot be contained. We cannot hide our gifts and callings. To illumine the darkness and envelope the world in Christ’s light, Christians must engage the work of the Gospel, such as the works of mercy described by the prophet Isaiah. Then, and only then, will our “light break forth like the dawn.”

We are, each of us, salt and light, influencing the world and those around us even when we do not see it or feel it. Our offerings point others toward God, for all glory belongs to God. Each one of us is called to consider how we, personally, might dig deeper into the mission set before us a Church.

While we are all salt, we are not the same. Salt itself isn’t even the same: there’s table salt, course Kosher salt, fleur de sel, pink salt, and fine sea salt.

We’re all light, called to bring attention to the one true Light of the World, but none of us shines in the same way. There’s warm light and cool light; incandescent, fluorescent, and LED; white lights at Christmas and colored, C7 bulbs and C9; and, of course, the light of the sun and the light of the moon.

God created us with differences and calls us to engage the world through many vantage points. Don’t hide your light, none of us needs to stumble in the dark; but, don’t make your way through life with your high beams on, never considerate of those you’re passing. And watch how much of your salty self you present to others. Don’t be afraid to keep “tasting your work,” adding salt as you find you need; but don’t go overdoing it—because too much salt ruins a perfect dish.

May we respond, even in dark and challenging times (especially, in dark and challenging times) with the gift of our whole selves, always aware of the precise amount needed to season this life, so as to prepare ourselves for the next.


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