Reflection: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s readings, words of our Scriptures allow us to focus on two images, one from the prophet Isaiah, and, centuries later, the other from Jesus. Light and salt. It’s striking that the images appear together in the readings today, and I can’t think of any two words that could strike as close to our core as these two. Light and salt.
Today’s Scriptures tell us how the Divine, how our God envisions us humans: “YOU are the light of the world.” “YOU are the salt of the earth.” ??? You mean US? Isaiah says “… your light shall break forth like the dawn;” “light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” Such hope! But note: there’s an IF: How or when does that happen?
There’s the catch: it happens, says Isaiah, “when you share your bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, care for the sick, avoid malicious speech … “ THEN, is when “your light will shine, and the gloom will disappear.” So this is the pattern: When we are generous, caring and sharing; when we have set aside our ego selves: then something changes within us, something inside loosens, some different energy is released: It is the energy of Love. I believe that, if we had eyes to see, we would indeed SEE that love, we would see the light of that Love. I believe that some persons with a certain sensitivity can sense it; it’s not tied to any plug in the wall, but there is an aura, something like electricity, that can be sensed, or seen. The Scriptures don’t talk about auras, but they do clearly understand Love, the openness of Love, and how it “shines.” Ubi caritas: Where there is Love, God is there.
And, Luke says in his Gospel that our role is to spread that light to the world: “YOU are the Light of the world,” YOU are meant to give light to everyone in the house — again, when they see your kindness. “YOU are a city set on a mountain,” Luke says — think how visible that is — everyone can see your generosity, your goodness and, he says, they will glorify God. And Luke has another image: “You are the salt of the earth.” What role does salt play? We would say it brings out the flavor, it sort of (figuratively) opens the pores to catch the sweetness, to release the aroma, to make it savory. Salt is also a preservative, extending freshness.
But notice this: Self-giving, sharing goods, caring for others means that the salt is losing itself for the sake of enhancing the good taste of food. Scripture warns that it is kindness, selflessness, thoughtfulness that precedes – in some way, draws the Light. The Light that Jesus is talking about in the Scriptures will require an attitude of selflessness, a change of “who’s in charge.”
YOU are the light of the world; YOU are the salt of the earth. We are only beginning to understand that our Scriptures clearly designate that our role, our duty as human beings is to see to the care of the planet, to nurture and protect the earth and all its creatures so that it can fulfill its role of providing clean air and water, food and just distribution for all the creatures on earth who depend – always and totally – on earth for their lives.
What can we make of all this? Our God, addressing US, naming US the light of the world, the salt of the earth. ME? The light of the world? ME? The salt of the earth?
The If: If God, the Divine, wanted to clarify for us our role vis a vis the rest of creation, what better way than to tell us straight out, YOU are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Light. Salt. They are two different recipes. But one pattern. Paul admits it: He tells the Corinthians: “I was scared to death to come here! I didn’t know any big words to say, no wisdom to explain this mystery of how God is working. I only knew Christ, and Christ crucified. I had no power of my own, I had to rely on the power of the Spirit.”
One pattern, different recipes: You are the LIGHT of the world, you are the SALT of the earth. Both depend entirely on letting their own power be empowered, be led by power of a different kind that works through them: the power of Love. At this point on our planet, we could hardly ask for a Scripture message closer to home. In a world where vision is clouded by self-serving power, and by competition rather than cooperation, we seek, like Paul, to share our lives, relying on the power of the Spirit. In a world where the life, the integrity and the beauty of our planet is being devastated by cruel and care-less plundering: Let us be aware both of our planet, our country and the tasks that face us in the coming months. And let us humbly, willingly and lovingly accept as our task to BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD AND THE SALT FOR OUR EARTH. And Remember: Ubi Caritas: Deus Ibi Est – Where there is Love, THERE IS GOD.