Friday, February 7, 2014

Salt of the Earth

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In last week's gospel Jesus went up to a high place and preached to His disciples the now famous "Sermon on the Mount." In today's first reading the prophet Isaiah preaches a similar sermon:

            Thus says the Lord:
            Share your bread with the hungry,
            shelter the oppressed and the homeless,
            clothe the naked when you see them,
            and do not turn your back on your own.

Isaiah says that for those who behave in this way,

            your light shall break forth like the dawn,
            and your wound shall quickly be healed.

Our Lord says the same thing in today's gospel account from St. Matthew. Today we have the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells his followers that,

            your light must shine before others,
            that they may see your good deeds
            and glorify your heavenly Father.

But our Lord warns us that our light can flicker and grow dim. Using another metaphor He calls us the salt of the earth, but cautions that "if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?"

In the next few weeks we are going to learn just what it takes to be a “light” to the world or the ‘salt” of the earth. From now to the beginning of Lent we are going to see that the Sermon on the Mount was not just words, words, words. We are going to see that the Beatitudes require hard work on our part. To put it another way, if we really want to be happy in this life as well as in the next, we will have to work very hard at it.

Why should this be so difficult to understand? Most of us are sports fans especially around Super Bowl Sunday. Is it possible that the two teams in last week's game got to the Super Bowl without hard work and sacrifice? We know that the best teams must have regimented work schedules. They must practice daily whether they like it or not. There is no way that a player or team can sit back and just hope to achieve success.

Some people admire Jesus because he was a great teacher. They like his sayings, the parables, and the words of wisdom found in lessons like the Sermon on the Mount. But they often fail to understand that Jesus came to suffer and die for us—to give up his life for us. Often they fail to understand that he called his disciples, including us, to a life of sacrifice and self-denial. Only if we die to self, will we find true happiness.

In today’s second reading St. Paul shows that he understood the message of the cross of Christ. He tells the Corinthians that “I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.” Instead, he says,

I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
Except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 

Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah issued a call to action that is as relevant today as it was then.

If you remove from your midst
Oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
And the gloom shall become for you like midday.


We are well into the New Year and many of us have already forgotten our resolutions. Maybe they were trivial anyway. In the year to come we might want to do some hard work if we want to get to our own Super Bowl. 

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Reading 1 Isaiah 58: 7-10
Reading II. 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5
Gospel. Matthew 5:13-16 (salt of the earth).

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