SALT and LIGHT
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its taste with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand where it give light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matt. 5:13-16)
Our Lord spoke with divine authority, but he spoke in human language. He spoke the language of ordinary people of his day. And he spoke of the things that were most familiar to them: birds of the air, lilies of the field, sower and the seed, vine and the branches. He spoke with divine simplicity, expressing deep philosophical and theological truths in simple language. In the Gospel for today he speaks of salt and light. He tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Both of which are essential for the well being of the world.
It is hard for us today to imagine the importance of salt in the time of our Lord. Salt was so valuable that in Rome it was doled out to Caesar’s soldiers as part of their salary, which was called salarium. Our word salary comes from this.
In Greece it was common to exchange salt for slaves. This produced the saying, “Not worth his salt.” Anyone who has been on a bland diet can tell you what salt does to the taste of food. Besides making food palatable it was an effective food preservative, which made it indispensable in times before refrigeration. Small wonder Jesus used salt to tell his followers how important and valuable they are. “You are the salt of the earth.”
Jesus told them also that they were the “light of the world.” Light was the first thing God created. Then when sin darkened the whole world God sent his Son to be the light of the world dispelling the darkness of sin. Jesus passed this light on to his apostles at Pentecost. And now through Baptism this light is passed on to us.
The first time we came to Church, at Baptism, we were carried in and were given a candle lit from the Paschal Candle, the light of Christ and told, “Receive the light of Christ.” The last time we come to Church we also will be carried in. The Paschal Candle, the light of Christ, will be at the head of the coffin. In the eulogy the homilist will review for the congregation the journey of the light you received. What will he say? Was it always bright; did it flicker; was it extinguished and relit, perhaps many times? Was it still burning at the end?
“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world." But how can we be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? Just as salt and light do. By being what they are. I can be the salt of the earth and the light of the world simply by being what I am, by being me. By being aware of the immanence of God; aware of the fact that I am We; that God is the ground of my being, closer to me then I am to myself. That God is in me like a sponge in the ocean, a song in the singer and the dance in a dancer. “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
I can be the salt of the earth and the light of the world simply by accepting the human condition with its transcendental neediness and lack of integrity - simply by accepting my unique, unrepeatable, indispensable edition of the human condition with all of the physical warts, psychological quirks and spiritual infidelities - simply by being me and being happy to be me.
In other words, I can be the light of the world through the Apostolate of Being. Not doing, Being. First is to be and then to do and the doing follows the being. Orange trees produce oranges, fig trees produce figs and baboons produce baboons. The Apostolate of Being Me and of being Happy to be me is the most effective apostolate as is evident from the following statements: “What you are shouts so loud I can’t hear what you are saying.” “Don’t tell me what Jesus can do for me show me what Jesus has done for you.” And this is an apostolate that can be exercised until the very end of life. And the closer we get to the end the more effective it is. Imagine that, you can be the salt and light of this community just by being yourself.
“Wherever you go there you are.” Wherever you go there is the light. Brighten the place where you are. I’ve known people like that in my life. When they come into the room the whole place is illuminated with the peace, love and happiness they radiated.
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