Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friend Pauline always said that we look better by candlelight.  That is certainly true.  And while we too often see ourselves only in a harsh glare, we all look better in the glow of Christ.  That is where we will be spending our time as we hear from now until Lent from the Sermon on the Mount.  Immediately after telling us who is blessed in the beatitudes, he now turns to his disciples and says what he is sure is true of them.

He begins by saying,” You are the salt of the earth.”  Salt of course adds flavor, but in Jesus’ time it was also the main method of preserving things, the only way to stop spoilage.  When Jesus calls his disciples salt of the earth, he is saying that those who follow him season the world.  They bring the taste of God to those who are hungering for the divine.  They give the ability for God’s word to be preserved in the midst of the world.

But then he says something strange.  If salt loses its flavor, it is good for nothing then to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  Evidently, Jesus’ synagogue was suffering from a number of weekend snowstorms as well.  But how can it be that lose loses its saltiness?  How can we fail to follow or know Jesus when we gather on Sunday, hear God’s word and receive his body and blood?  It can only be that we no longer believe that we are salt.  We think of ourselves as flavorless, as bland.  We do not think we can preserve because we feel worn out.  We believe there is nothing we can contribute.

But is that possible?  Do you know anybody like that?  Sure, we all feel that way at times, but do you think that way about any of your friends?  Isn’t there always something that is unique, flavorful and different about each one?  Doesn’t the care of each friend allow us to be preserved, to endure?  If it is true of our friends, it must be true of you.  We did not determine if we are salt of the earth, God chose that and there is nothing we can do about it.  Each one of us adds something to the savor of God.  So to paraphrase the most interesting man in the world from the Dos Equis commercials, “Stay salty my friend.”

And then, in what biblical scholar Frank Matera calls one of the boldest statements in the gospel, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.”  Now surely, the true light of the world is Jesus.  The only way we can be the light of the world is if we reflect the light of Christ.  It is as if there was a prism, catching the light of Christ.  If it were turned but one millimeter, we would share the light of Christ in a completely different way.  We are the unrepeatable, indispensable light of Christ.  It is like a pointillism painting, where every dot contributes to the painting or a mosaic where each piece makes up the whole.  Everyone point, every piece is crucial and if it were missing, all would know.

Each of us is the light of the world.  I am the light of the world.  This loud, ungraceful person with a not quite perfect body/mass index who tries to be funny, care about others and love as best he can, I am the light of the world.  There is an astounding and overwhelming beauty in each of us.  And the angle by which you reflect Christ will reach places and people no one else can.  If you do not see such beauty you are not doing the world any service.   If you cannot see the beauty abounding in your life, what God placed there to share his life and his word, then you are putting your light under a bushel basket when it was meant to paced on a lampstand and give light to all. 

And our light will increase when, as we hear in the first reading, we share our bread with the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and clothe the naked.  It increases when we gather together and the combination of our lights brings warmth to those who shiver in the cold of desolation, injustice and heartbreak.  Our light is like a city set on a hill for all to see so that from far away as a beacon of hope promises, “There I can find my peace, there I will know I am loved, there I will find my salvation.”

We are what our God has made us.  We are salt of the earth; we are the light of the world.