5th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Salt for the Earth

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its flavor be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel;  they on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

saltfortheearthIf we were creating the universe, do you think we would come up with strange wonders like the Grand Canyon, of the Dead Sea, or Niagara Falls or the North Pole?  Would we design animals like the giraffe of the hippopotamus, or the ostrich or the pelican?  Nature is full of startling and marvelous surprises - as well as incongruities.  It would lead us to think that the Creator has a fantastic sense of humor.

That same sense of paradox is evident in the creation of the human race.  God makes us in his own image, with incredible power of intelligence and unlimited freedom of choice...but He clothes us in flesh; we are charged with very volatile emotions and passions, strong likes and dislikes, powerful instincts of love and hate; but then are challenged to be perfectly holy, so as to reflect the very holiness of God.  When He saw that we were really not doing a very good job of getting it all together, He sent His own Son to share fully in our humanity so that He could show us the way to wholeness and holiness.

But again, we encounter paradox and what seems like a twisted divine sense of humor.  Jesus is a very difficult model to follow.  He makes outrageous demands on our sense of the reasonable.  He seems to believe that we can transcend all of the limitations of our fragile nature.  He invites us to be heroes, to be fools, to be clowns in the eyes of the unbelieving world around us.  He tells us that we are the "salt" of the earth… the "light" of the world.

But what does that really mean?

Isaiah reminds the people of God that if they learn to care for one another, they will be able to receive God's care themselves.  Their rituals must express a genuine conversion of their hearts.  They cannot fast or pray, expecting to twist God's arm.  Jesus likewise calls his followers to conduct their lives so that they will call attention to the presence of God within them.  Salt, light and a city on a hill are clear ways to show what this message means.

For salt to be flavorful it must go to work on its target; for light to shatter the darkness, it must burn ever so brightly.  For us to be true witnesses to the Gospel, we must be do-ers, not talkers.  Jesus just doesn't invite us to think beyond this life or to imagine a different world as we enter the new millennium.  He shows what needs to be done and He tells us that we are to do it.  We may ask ourselves how we are to do this… and He gives the answer.

The answer is Jesus Crucified and Risen.  The answer is wrapped up in this ever-present mystery, at the heart of our Christianity, of dying to ourselves so that the love of God and neighbor might come to full bloom in us.

The Crucified Christ teaches us how to die... and the Risen Christ teaches us how to live.  The Cross conditions us to self-denial, to contradiction, to failure, to foolishness for the sake of love.  The Empty Tomb assures us that the victory and the power of the Risen Lord are ours.  It is that power, transmitted to us by Baptism and come to full measure by our growth in and exercise of Christ-like love, that we defy the world and its standards.

It is in that power that we are able to take on the foolishness of Christ and to love as He loves, so that we can truly be the salt and the light.  And by becoming salt and light, we can truly transform the world.