Jesus tells his disciples to be salt of the earth and light to the world. That they are to motivate others to action through their own words, deeds and actions of love and respect.
Salt is a catalyst in cooking, enhancing the flavor of food. It can be added to a candle wick so that when it is lit, the candle light is intensified, that is, it burns brighter than would a simple wick made up of string or cording.
He tells them that salt when it gets old (or ‘flat’) is useless. It is only good to be thrown away and trampled underfoot. We need to use it or lose it!
A light covered by a basket darkens a room but one that is put on a pedestal lights the whole room. We are to be light so that, like moths to the flame, people come inquiring of us about the light that we bear, Jesus Christ, the true Light of the World.
It is when we are salt and light that we accomplish the work that God our Father has given us to do as his beloved children, adopted through baptism, fed on the Eucharist of Jesus’ Body and Blood, and guided by the Holy Spirit to impact lives.
As people of light, we have been called to serve the poor, the marginalized, as they have no one but God to give them hope for a brighter future. They often live hand to mouth so they do not have time to listen to long-winded speeches about why they need to suffer because of sin or their skin color. They have been beaten down by the powerful and made to believe that they have no power themselves. Their leaders will tell them what to do, what to say and what to think. Their job is to do the things that no one else will do. And they are reminded often that they are replaceable if they get out of line.
Jesus came to remove fear. To remind us of God’s love for them, starting with the Garden of Eden where all creation lived in harmony together. Sin entered when Satan sought to ‘be like God’ and out of jealousy of the relationship mankind had with God, tempted Adam and Eve to turn away from God’s blessing and deliberately do what they already knew was wrong.
The three basic elements of sin: 1) They were told it was wrong, 2) they knew that it was wrong and 3) they freely did it anyway.
Thus they committed the Original Sin, which we continue to re-commit over and over down through the ages, choosing to do ‘our own thing’ in contrast to, doing the will of God.
In this way we horde our saltiness, afraid that we might run out. We cover our light, hiding our giftedness behind our selfish desires that we might be seen and have to respond to the needs of others, with love.
Yet God is merciful and has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation to remove the fear that we have embraced as part of our being. We can be set free of the lies we were told growing up and the lies we tell ourselves that we are not ‘worthy’ of love, mercy or even joy in our lives. That life is not worth living and that we can never amount to anything.
Jesus thinks otherwise, and died on the cross to prove His love for us, that while we were yet sinners, He loved us as we were. And He continues to love us as we are. Encouraging us to share our saltiness and illuminating our souls with His light so that we may not stumble in the darkness of sin and death but expose the lies of sin and thus overcome fear with love.
Love is the greatest gift from God because God is love. And it is in His self-giving love that we are made perfect -- new creations in Jesus Christ -- and promised an eternal home with God in heaven.
God invites us to be co-creators with Him and live in harmony and peace. Peace that the world cannot give because of the structures of sin that bind it.
In his newest letter on the environment, Laudate Deum, Pope Francis says that a climate crisis now exists because of the inaction of our leaders, and calls all people of good faith to demand just laws and policies that protect our planet from those who seek only to monetize everything for profit at the expense of destruction of cultures, biospheres, and even future generations.
Yet, despite the present reality, Pope Francis invites us to live in hope -- and trust in God. We should not sit around and wait for someone else to do something. We are to reject sin, reclaim our birth rite as beloved children of the Creator and seek to restore peace and harmony by reconciling with one another and with our planet we call home.
And we do so by ‘taking up our mat’ and following Jesus.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.