Homily for June 7th, 2016: Mathew 5:13-16.
Jesus spoke in simple, everyday language that even children could understand. What could be simpler than the two images Jesus uses in our gospel reading: salt and light? In Jesus’ day soldiers received an allotment of salt as part of their pay. Because the Latin word for salt is sal it was called their salarium, from which we get our word salary. Even today, when someone doesn=t measure up or do his duty we say he=s Anot worth his salt.@ So when Jesus says, AYou are the salt of the earth,@ he is telling us that we are that ingredient in the world which, like salt, may be small in quantity, but which makes all the difference in quality..
Jesus also tells us: AYou are light C the light of the world.@ The first creation tale in Genesis says that creation began when God said: ALet there be light.@ When, in the fullness of time, God=s Son came into the world, he said: AI am the light of the world.@ (Jn 8:12) Pondering those words, and the story of creation in Genesis, Christians came to discern Christ=s role in creation. Hence we say in the Creed: AWe believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, ... through whom all things were made.@
How dark the world would be if he had never lived! When Jesus says, AYou are the light of the world,@ he is not telling us to become the world=s light, any more than he tells us to become salt. As followers and friends of Jesus Christ, given a share of his life in baptism, we already are salt and light for the world. ABe what you are!@ Jesus is saying.
Does that mean isolating ourselves from modern society? Some Christians favor that. They are good people. But they are mistaken. To isolate ourselves from others is like putting the lamp which lighted the small one-room house of Jesus= day under a basket. The people who heard Jesus knew that wasn=t what you did with a lamp. You put it on a lampstand where, as Jesus says in today=s gospel, Ait gives light to all in the house. Just so,@ Jesus continues, Ayour light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify God.@ Why? Because God is the one who inspires us to do good deeds. And it is God alone who gives us the power to do good C to be what we are: salt to flavor and preserve; and light to shine in the darkness of our world.
Here at these two tables of word and sacrament the Lord first takes us up into his light and then sends us forth to pass on that light to others in a dark world, through a life of joyful service and generous love.