5 Sunday A - You are the Light/Salt - Homilies

Fr. Bill Grimm's Video Message at the bottom
Making decisions in the dark can lead to some regrettable consequences. Back in the days before electricity, a tightfisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his best girl. "Why," he exclaimed, "when I went a-courtin' I never carried one of them things. I always went in the dark." "Yes," the hired man said wryly," and look what you got!" 
Source Unknown.

Some people change their ways when they see the light, others only when they feel the heat.
Source Unknown.

Sodium is an extremely active element found naturally only in combined form; it always links itself to another element. Chlorine, on the other hand, is the poisonous gas that gives bleach its offensive odor. When sodium and chlorine are combined, the result is sodium chloride--common table salt--the substance we use to preserve meat and bring out its flavor. Love and truth can be like sodium and chlorine. Love without truth is flighty, sometimes blind, willing to combine with various doctrines. On the other hand, truth by itself can be offensive, sometimes even poisonous. Spoken without love, it can turn people away from the gospel. When truth and love are combined in an individual or a church, however, then we have what Jesus called "the salt of the earth," and we're able to preserve and bring out the beauty of our faith.
David H. Johnson.

Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
My friends, we have gathered here because we have heard and answered the invitation of Jesus, the Anointed One. Gathered we become his people, his body, his presence in the world. We are called to act in the world like salt: giving flavour through its presence. We are called to be a light to those around us. We are called to reflect the goodness of our heavenly Father. So let us begin our gathering by recalling our identity as the community of the baptised.

Michel de Verteuil
General notes

Following on the Beatitudes, this Sunday’s gospel adds some more insights into the qualities of the followers of Jesus. It does this through three images – salt, light (in two phases) and a city built on a hilltop. 

It is a short passage which means that we can spend time on whichever of the images we are drawn to and go deeply into it. Even as we do this, we may find it necessary to refer to the others, as the three complement one another, painting the picture of a perfectly rounded person. 

As always in the bible, the images are not static and we must discover the movement within them, two movements in fact
– one of sin and one of grace. We identify with both movements – repent of the sin and celebrate the grace. In each case we choose who we are identifying with:
       – Jesus and his followers;
       – the people whose lives they touch;
       – Jesus teaching the crowds from the mountain.
The passage is a teaching of Jesus but also a personal testimony revealing to us the kind of person he was, and still is, living in the “Jesus people” we meet. We celebrate them and allow them to challenge us both as individuals and as a Church community.

Textual comments

Verse 13a – “You are the salt of the earth”
Salt is an appropriate symbol of Christian living from different points of view; this text invites us to focus on one of these – it gives taste.
Remember people who have brought sparkle to your life (“the earth”), at a time when it had become drab.
Apply the image at different levels:
       – the arrival of a new born baby brings reconciliation to a family;
       – a family in distress is cheered up by the visit of a kindly parent, grandparent,
uncle or aunt;
       – a manager or worker brings a new spirit of cooperation between management and labour.
       – a newly elected leader injects idealism into public life;
We can apply the image to groups as well as to individuals:
       – a new movement arises within a parish community or a neighbourhood;
       – an NGO starts a community project which transforms a run-down neighbourhood;
       – a new political party brings hope by campaigning against corruption  or working for
       – the Church is converted to the cause  of the  poor and becomes a force for radical change
 in society.
We think of Jesus being “salt” for the Jewish religion of his time, bringing a humanity to it that was lacking. We remember him
       – refusing to let the Pharisees intimidate his disciples;
       – eating with sinners;
       – so fond of feasting that he was accused of being  a “drunkard” and “possessed”.
Remember when someone was Jesus for your community or family.

All these are stories of grace. The passage then raises another option, a story of sin: the salt becomes tasteless. The text evokes three aspects of the decline:
       a) “Nothing can make it salty again.” Feel the hopelessness – “If he or she (or the community) acts like this, what hope is there for the rest of us?”
       b) “It is good for nothing” – extreme pathos, “They had so much potential, now look at them!”
       c) “It can only be thrown out to be trampled on by men”. Fallen heroes are looked down on in word and deed:
       – a large church building once packed with worshippers is now empty;
       – a great doctor is alone in his office;
       – the seminary has a handful of students;
       – the church is mocked because of clerical scandals;
       – former nationalist leaders turned corrupt and now languish in  prison.
       We think of how the great Jewish religion became mean and narrow minded at the time of Jesus, a “loss of savour” which would recur many times in the history of church:
       – the Crusades;
       – theologians  of the 16th century defending the ill treatment of the Indians;
       – Christian churches not speaking out against segregation in the Southern United States and apartheid in South Africa;
       – church leaders blessing armies  (today again in the “war against terrorism”).
We celebrate bishops of today who “go up a hill and sit down” to challenge their fellow bishops to be “salt to the earth” by taking a prophetic stance against their governments, e.g. Bishop Gumbleton in the US, and Archbishop Ncube in Zimbabwe.
Verse 14a -  The image of light: “You are the light of the world”

This image also presents a contrast, this time between “the light” and “the world”, understood as a place of darkness. We remember good people coming into our lives, like day dawning after a long night, or a rescuer arriving with a light when we had been plunged in darkness.
Here the text does not spell out the image, so we can be guided by our experience. We remember our feelings:
        – clarity: we had been lost and confused, then we saw a way forward;
       – joy driving away sorrow;
       – hope: we saw possibilities where before we had seen none.
Verse 14b – “You are a city built on a mountain top”

The text brings out one aspect of the image – such a city cannot be hidden.
We are free to imagine the reasons why someone would want to “hide” it.
       – From within, the community is afraid of publicity (“We will become an easy target”), or is over anxious (“Will our message get through?”).
       – From outside, an enemy fears the consequences; a tyrant says, “If we let them get away with their freedom, others will want to follow”.
To all Jesus says “You won’t be able to stop it”. Remember when some person or event made you realise this (with fear or relief); that was Jesus speaking to you.
Verses 15 and 16 – second aspect of the image of light, more concrete than the first, a lamp hanging on a lampstand.  We choose who we want to identify with – the owner? the lamp? the people in the house?
       – Verse 15a – The sin option: the owner can put it under a tub, Feel the sadness. Imagine why owners would want to do that. As with the previous image it could be the fear of publicity and the accompanying criticism in case of failure.
       In this case however, there is another possibility – selfishness. The owners hide the light under a tub because they want to keep it for themselves; they can impose charges or conditions on those who will use it. We think of
         - the abuse of the notion of “intellectual property”;
         – resources like water, light and minerals, kept in the hands of a few;
         - the rules of international trade, preventing the free flow of natural goods.
Jesus’ teaching is a radical critique of the modern capitalist system.
       – Verse 15b – The grace option: it shines for everyone in the house. Feel the relief that the light is no longer hidden under a tub. Celebrate the people who hang it on the lamp stand.
       – Verse 16 – Application of the image.
        16a: your light shines in the sight of all. The image must be interpreted in the light of the other images. Jesus is not advocating showiness or putting ourselves forward; this would  go against the images of salt and the city on a mountain top both of which affect others merely by being what they are. We celebrate people who live their values in public but are humble at the same time.
        16b: they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Be imaginative in interpreting “glorify”. It does not necessarily refer to saying prayers. What it reminds us of is how good people dispel negativity, they make others (including those who belong to other Churches and religions) feel happy and hopeful – “life is worth living”, “there is a God!”. Celebrate the times when people (movements) had this effect on you.
John Litteton
Gospel Reflection

The gospel reading invites us to reflect on the significance of the light of Christ in our lives. The image of worldly light is used to communicate the deeper meaning of the light of Christ. Light dispels darkness. It gives us confidence because it points us in the right direction. It enables us to see things as they are.
We often take light for granted. Usually we do not notice it until, suddenly, we are without it. Whenever we experience power-failures we are reminded that we are particularly dependent on light for clear vision and we realise how necessary light is in our everyday lives. The real value of light, then, is to be found in its brightness, which provides us with direction.
Jesus used the image of light when speaking to his disciples. He told them that they were the light of the world, just as he was their light. By imitating his teaching and example in their own lives they could, like light, offer guidance and direction to other people. This was because they knew where they were going. The disciples were to share and reflect the light of Christ, which would give light to the world.
What is the light of Christ? The light of Christ is our guiding light. We feel secure in the light of Christ as it directs us through life. It is the teaching of Christ that motivates us to live in imitation of him. The light of Christ is God sharing his life and love with us. It is the life of Christ that is shared with us in the Eucharist: the living bread that has cone down from heaven giving life to the world.
The light of Christ offers people meaning  and hope. It highlights the love that can be found in the goodness of life. It challenges us to live God-like lives, lives without sin. It offers us consolation and reassurance because it assures us that Christ is near at all times.
We are as much disciples of Jesus as those to whom he spoke in the gospel. Each one of us is being challenged to be the light of the world. But we are also being conunissioned collectively, as members of Christ’s Church, to be the light of the world. We are the light of the world when we are decent and respectful towards other people and when we live according to the teaching of Christ and his Church. We are invited to see in a new light.
Seeing in a new light is about seeing in a new perspective, God’s perspective. It is about behaving in a different way. Therefore, let us see in a different light and let our light shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing our good works, they may give praise to our Father in heaven.

Scripture prayer
       “Be men and women of the world, but not worldly men and women.”    Jose Maria Escriva 
       Lord, we thank you for the people who have been as salt for us,
       bringing life and joy to our lives
       – families,
       – neighbourhoods
       – workplaces
       – Church communities.
       Remembering them and their good works makes us glorify you, our Father in heaven.
       Lord, we remember with immense sadness people who have ruined their lives
       with alcohol, drugs, fanaticism.
       We see them lying on the side of the road,
       no one can bring them to be what we know they are capable of becoming;
       people are trampling them underfoot.
       Lord have mercy.
       “The sons and daughters of the Church must return with a spirit of repentance  for the acquiescence given, especially in certain centuries, to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of the truth.”    Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente
       Lord, we ask forgiveness for the times, both past and present,
       when your Church did reject the dominant values of its time
       and was not salt to the earth.
       No wonder idealistic people have scorned us,
       trampling your people underfoot as Jesus foretold.
       “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power.”            Vatican II, Declaration on Religious Freedom 

Lord, in our modern Western culture
       groups spend much time, money and energy on public relations.
       We pray that we may not follow this trend in our efforts to attract  more people to join us.
       Help us to concentrate rather on being true to the best of ourselves,
       remembering that a city built on a mountain top cannot be hidden.
       “The world has enough to satisfy every person’s need, not enough to satisfy every person’s greed.”  Gandhi 

Lord, forgive us that many people nowadays
       see their talents as opportunities for making money.
       They hide them under a tub
       so that they can ration them out to the highest bidder.
       The result is that your abundant gifts are not being shared.
       We pray that your church may be the voice of Jesus in the world,
       reminding our contemporaries that you have lit lamps in the world,
       not to be hidden under a tub,
       but so that they can be put on a lampstand and shine on everyone in the house.
Homily notes

1. Salt’, ‘light’, a ‘shining city on a hill’: three wonderful metaphors for the relationship of each community of Christians to the larger society in which it finds itself. It is a relationship whereby the Christian community is distinct within the larger society and offers it a service it may not even know it needs and might be unwilling to declare that it wants. Our society is fine, one can hear people say, and it does not need a group of Christians thinking that they have the light or that they are a model of what our society should be. For our part, many of us Christians would rather keep our heads down, point out that it makes no difference that we are Christians to what we are like as neighbours, employees, or officials.
2. This situation of Christians being a small, identifiable group within a larger society was taken for granted at the time the gospel was written, and indeed survived until well into the fifth century. Then, for more than a millennium, the situation that Christians experienced was radically different: the com­munity and the Christian community became virtually co­terminous. Indeed, the distinction between Christians / non­Christians was often replaced by the distinction of ‘ church’ (meaning the clergy, sometimes formally established as an estate) / state or the distinction of altar / crown. Now, with the occasional exception, that identification of church community and larger society has disappeared. We still hear people re­ferring to ‘Christian countries’ but they just mean back­ground culture, while we as Christians should be quick to deny that simply belonging to a country can be seen as being part of the body of Christ.
3. However, we are left with a few conundrums. First, we have little experience of being a sub-group within society; and we are often far happier thinking of ourselves as the group that gives form to society. Second, we have many mechanisms/ practices in our communal behaviour / pastoral strategies that served us well when we as the Christian community and we as a secular society were almost identical; but little by way of experience in being a servant of the larger society.
4. Just noting this new, or relatively new, situation, and helping people to recognise it as a factor in how they think of them­selves, is a first step today.
5. Only when we can think of ourselves as having many ‘be­longings’ can we think of how we, in a particular community, can be of service. We have to learn to steer between three sets of rocks. First, the Christians cannot separate themselves out from society at large as if they are an elect sect, ‘the saved’. This is an option that many sects have taken over the cent­uries, but it ignored the fact that the whole universe is the creation of the Father. The Christ’s love and forgiveness reached out to all, and we are called help the society give praise to the Father, not to abandon it. The second danger is to imagine that there is no distinction between the values of the larger society and that of the community of the church; life is simple if the Christians just disappear and adopt the current trends. We have a distinctive vision that the universe is good, it is loved by the Father, and there is the good news that can transform how we view life. The third set of rocks is to imagine that we can only relate to a society that signs up in detail to our vision. We must work with all people of good will, knowing that the Spirit is always at work before us, be­yond our reach, and in ways we cannot see.
5. We are called today – in every place in the developed world ­to learn an aspect of being Christians that, for the most part, never even bothered our parents or grandparents. But part of the good news is that in every learning curve there is the Spirit’s presence to be called upon to bring light in our darkness.

1.     Andrew Greeley

During the next several Sundays we here Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” –his account of the tradition which Matthew renders in his Sermon on the Mount. There was obviously an earlier tradition of a compendium of the sayings of Jesus which, as it was handed on, emerged in two somewhat different forms.

Matthew edited one version and Luke another. Despite different settings and wordings (Matthew has eight beatitudes, Luke has four beatitudes and four woes) both have the same theme: a description of the kind of lives the followers of Jesus will live if they trust in Jesus’s revelation of God’s love.

The beatitudes are not normative, not new obligations to be added to the commandments. Rather they are descriptive, new insights into the possibility of life when one trusts in God as Jeremiah says in the bible.

Once upon a time there was a gifted young man from an impoverished background that set out to prove himself. He studied hard, work his way through college and business school, and dedicated himself to success in the company that hired him. Because he combined street smarts and intellectual shrewdness, he was extremely successful and rapidly moved up in the company, becoming a senior vice president before he was forty.

He married a fine woman and they had three splendid children, though he had little time for them, so determined was he to make it to the top. In the process he earned a lot of money and piled up valuable stock options.

Just ten more years, he promised his wife, then I’ll be able to relax and enjoy life. All our kids will be out of college by then. I’ll make it all up to them, he promised. Neither the wife nor the kids believe him.

Then on the day of his 40th birthday he keeled over with a heart attack and almost died.

Too much stress the doctors said. You’ve got to leave your company and settle back to a more relaxed life. I can’t he pleaded, I’ll be the next CEO! I can’t pass up that opportunity. You’ll be a dead CEO the doctor replied unless you change your life style. I can’t, the man said, I must make it to the top.
Buy the best insurance you can get the doctor replied because your wife will be a widow before you’re forty five.

2.     Connections

Unsalted popcorn and an electrical power outage are all that we need to appreciate Jesus' message in today's Gospel reading (the continuation of the Sermon on the Mount). Through the images of salt and light, Jesus impresses upon his listeners the vocation of Christians: As I am salt and light to the world, so you, as my disciples, must reflect me to the world.
Salt and sun, of themselves, are not good for very much and can even be harmful.  Their value is realized only when they mix or interact with other things.  Their addition brings out the fullness of whatever they come in contact with.
A handful of salt brings out the natural flavor in every kind of food, from filet to popcorn.  The four ounces of salt in our bodies enable our muscles to contract, our blood to circulate, our hearts to beat.  Salt purifies and softens, cleans and preserves.  Salt is an important element in making glass, building roads, manufacturing soap and shampoo, bleaching paper and cooling nuclear reactors.  Salt is used both in freezing and in de-icing.  There are over 14,000 uses of salt -- but of and by itself, salt is useless.  Eating a handful of salt does not taste particularly good – it might even make you sick to your stomach.
Light’s true beauty is realized only when we look away from its source and toward what it illuminates.  Light transforms the cold terror of night into the warm assurance of day.  Light enables us to discover, to study, to discern, to behold the beauty of our world and the wonders of God’s creation.  Light warms, nurtures, sustains, reveals, cheers.
Salt is perhaps the most humble of all chemicals; light is among the most generous of all physical properties.

To be “salt for the earth” is to bring Christ’s compassion and hope into our homes, workplaces, schools and communities; our simplest acts of charity can be a “light” for our world and unmistakable evidence of the presence of God among us. 
Jesus’ call to his followers to be “salt” and “light” for the world is a challenge to live the Gospel we have heard and profess to believe.  Until our hopes for justice become our work for justice, until our prayers for peace and unity in the world are first lived in our own home and community, until our professed belief in God as Father of all affects every one of our relationships, we are as good as flavorless salt, we are as useful as light hidden away under a basket. 

Humble salt, generous light
Ever eat a handful of salt?  Or drink a glass of ocean water?
Of course not.  Salt by itself does not taste particularly good -- it might even make you sick to your stomach.
Ever look directly at the sun or into a bright, burning bulb?  Not without doing permanent damage to your eyes.
Salt and sun, of themselves, are useless.  Their value is realized only when they mix with other things.  Their addition brings out the fullness of whatever they come in contact with.
That handful of salt, acrid tasting of itself, can bring out the natural flavor in every kind of food, from filet to popcorn.  The four ounces of salt in our bodies enable our muscles to contract, our blood to circulate, our hearts to beat.  Salt purifies and softens, cleans and preserves.
Light’s true beauty is realized only when we look away from its source and toward what it illuminates.  Light transforms the cold terror of night into the warm safety of day.  Light enables us to study, to discover, to behold the beauty of our world and the wonders of God’s creation.  Light warms, nurtures, sustains, reveals, cheers.
Salt is perhaps the most humble of all chemicals; light is among the most generous of all physical properties.
In calling us to become salt and light for the earth, Jesus asks us to embrace that same humility and generosity.  Those who are “salt of the earth” are not those we admire for their virtue or holiness -- they are the ones who bring out the goodness in us and everyone else.  Those who are a “light for the world” divert attention from themselves in order to illuminate the goodness of God in our midst.  To become “salt” in the spirit of Christ is to bring forth the “flavor” of God in everyone and everything; to be “light” that is a true reflection of Christ is to illuminate the presence of God in the midst of the dark and the cold, the hidden and the unclear.  
[From Know Me, Hold Me, Sing to Me: What My Grandchild Taught Me About God by Kathleen Chesto.]

3.     ACP:

(Salt of the earth; the light of the world – the example of Christians helps our unbelieving world.)
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Letting the light shine
In India when two people meet, instead of shaking hands as we do in the West, they have a graceful custom of joining their hands, as if in prayer, and bowing towards each other, a gesture which appears so meaningful and full of respect. Perhaps the best way to counter the sign of the clenched fist, mentioned today by Isaiah, is with the sign of the joined hands, which denotes generosity and respect, and one might even say readiness to pray for others. If you allow your life to be moulded by such attitudes, then indeed “your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like the noonday.” The gospel is even more emphatic when it says, “Your light must shine before others, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.”
There might seem, however, to be a contradiction between this saying about “letting your light shine,” and the fact that Christ spent all his own life–with the exception of three years–in the obscurity of the remote village of Nazareth, and that seemingly with little effect, for the inhabitants refused obstinately to see him as anything other than the carpenter, the son of Mary. So much so, as St Mark tells us, that Jesus himself was amazed at their incredulity. “He could work no miracle there because of their lack of faith,” (Mk 6:5f). How consistent is Jesus, if he cautions me not to hide my light under a tub, while all that time at Nazareth he seemed to act like the man in his own parable, who received but one talent and was condemned for not putting it to good use. The message of his quiet life in Nazareth is not easy to unravel. What Jesus was called upon to practise at Nazareth was the heroism of the ordinary, the daily, often dull, routine, which requires its own kind of courage. Nazareth then was the scene of a hidden life, the ordinary everyday life of a family, made up of work and prayer, marked only by hidden virtues, and only God and Christ’s closest relatives and neighbours were witnesses to any of it. Here in fact we have mirrored the lives of the majority of us. What sets Jesus apart from the rest of us is that he possessed the one basic talent, beside which all others are worthless. This was his ability to remain in God, to anchor his whole life firmly in the Father, to let the Father be the guiding force in his life. In his own words, “The Son can do only what he sees the Father doing, and whatever the Father does the Son does too” (Jn 5:19). But this close relationship with God is not something we can earn, or plan for ourselves. It is God’s miracle, God’s doing. It is like the man in the parable, who scatters seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps or when he is awake, the seed is germinating, sprouting, growing. But how, he does not know. Concealment, we might even say, is the way God’s glory is revealed in the world. So for the people of Nazareth, Jesus would remain just “the carpenter;” while it was only through the mystery of the resurrection that the light of Christ’s true identity was revealed to his chosen disciples. So it was too with many of the great saints, who never tried to create an impression of holiness, but strove inwardly to remain always close to God, “in loving attentive expectancy,” as St John of the Cross said. These words could admirably describe the short life of another great Carmelite saint. Therese of the Child Jesus died at the age of 24, after nine years in her Convent at Lisieux.
Very few people took notice. According to her natural sister, Pauline, several of the other nuns even said that Teresa had been doing nothing, had come to Carmel seemingly to amuse herself. Yet in the following twenty years this community sent out over 750,000 copies of her Abridged Life, and 250,000 copies of The Story of a Soul, the account of her life written under obedience by Teresa herself. Within less than thirty years she had been canonised a saint in Rome before 50,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica and an estimated half million in the Square outside. Two years later little Teresa Martin who had never once left her convent was proclaimed Patroness of the Foreign Missions. How did this come about? Reflecting on St Paul’s assertion that there are three virtues which endure, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love, Teresa saw her mission in life. “In the heart of my mother, the Church,” she said, “I shall be love.” And in the concealment of her convent God’s glory was to be revealed in a special way before the whole world.

5. From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1: Salt and light:  The story of EWTN is the story of a brave woman who had the courage of her conviction that she should be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  She is Mother Angelica who in 1981 started broadcasting Catholic TV for just a few hours a day from the garage of her Poor Clare Monastery in the US.  The project grew and grew, and now, after more than twenty years, the Eternal Word Television Network is available twenty-four hours a day all over the world by cable and satellite.  Mother Angelica is an example of a true Christian living out her faith as salt to preserve Christian values and to provide the modern world with a purifying mass medium. She keeps putting her lamp on the lamp-stand so that Christ’s Light will shine for everyone in the modern global village. 

2: Is your light shining? 

If you doubt your light matters, take this little quiz.1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world. 2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. 3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Pageant. Do you know all these answers? Probably not. Ask yourself some additional questions: 1. Who fed and clothed you when you were helpless? 2. What was the name of your 1st grade teacher? 3. Who is the first friend you would call in an emergency? You do know the answers to these questions. They are the salt and light of the world. 

  3: “I give them Jesus." 

Mother Teresa was speaking to persons who had come to meet her from all over the world. Among those to whom she spoke was a group of religious sisters from many North American orders. After her talk she asked if there were any questions. "Yes, I have one," a Sister sitting near the front said. “As you know, most of the orders represented here have been losing members. It seems that more and more women are leaving all the time. And yet your order is attracting thousands upon thousands. What do you do?" Without hesitating Mother Teresa answered, "I give them Jesus." "Yes I know," said the woman, "but take habits, for example. Do your women object to wearing habits? And the rules of the order, how do you do it?" "I give them Jesus," Mother Teresa replied. "Yes, I know Mother," said the woman, "but can you be more specific?" "I give them Jesus," Mother Teresa repeated again. "Mother," said the woman, "we are all of us aware of your fine work. I want to know about something else." Mother Teresa said quietly, "I give them Jesus. There is nothing else." (Margaret Davidson, Scholastic, 1971. Cited in BTBC, pp. 250-251.) We Christians have something the world cannot find anywhere else. It is Jesus, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. 

 Life messages

1) We need to be the salt of the earth: a). As the salt of the earth, the Christian must be an example of purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought. b) As the salt of the earth, the Christian must have a certain antiseptic influence on life and society, defeating corruption, fighting against injustice and making it easier for others to avoid sin. c) As salt preserves foods, we have to preserve the religious faith, Christian cultural values and moral principles, which Jesus has given us, and we need to work at reconciling the quarreling factions in families and communities. As the salt of the earth, we also have to add flavor to the lives of desperate people through outreach programs, to give meaning to the lives of people and boosting their morale, to offer them occasions to help others, and finally to give hope where there is no hope. 

2) We need to be the light of the world: The second role of Christians is to receive the light of Christ and radiate it to people all around us in the form of love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service. With a little bit of Christ’s Light, we become a veritable lighthouse, illuminating the way for many and removing the darkness caused by hatred, spite and jealousy. We radiate Christ, the Light of the world, by our kindness and respect for others with different ethnic backgrounds, different lifestyles, other faiths or no faith at all.  


From Sermons now:

There are all kinds of theories about how to motivate people.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton hadn't won a game in eight weeks. A critical press was suggesting that he be dropped from the starting lineup. The future looked bleak, and Sutton felt terrible. Then, before a game, Dodgers manager Walter Alston tapped him on the shoulder. "I'd like to speak with you, Don," he said. Sutton prepared himself for the worst.

"Don," said Alston, "I know how the past couple of months have been for you. Everyone's wondering whether we can make it to the play-offs . . . You know there's a lot of pressure . . . I've had to make a decision." Sutton had visions of being taken off the mound. Then Alston continued. "If the Dodgers are going to win this year," he said, looking Sutton in the eye, "they're going to win with Don Sutton pitching. Come what may, you're staying in the starting job. That's all I wanted to say."

Sutton's losing streak lasted two more weeks, but because of his manager's encouragement he felt different about it. Something in him was turning around. He found himself pitching the best ball of his career. In the National League pennant drive, he won 13 games out of 14. 

There are all kinds of theories about how to motivate people. We can do it through guilt, through fear, through shame. But these were not Jesus' methods. Jesus motivated through positive messages of hope and encouragement. 

Consider our lesson for today. Jesus says to his followers, "You are the light of the world. . . ."


What's your favorite color? Is it more 450? Or do you tend towards 600? Maybe even 700?

In case those numbers don't immediately mean anything to you, on the visible spectrum scale for light 450 nanometers means "blue," 600 is yellow, and at 700 nanometers you are seeing red.

But we don't "see" numbers, do we? We see the beautiful, variable, illuminating colors that light takes on as it is refracted and reflected before our eyes. We don't experience nanometers. We bask under a blue sky? Or we bath in wonder at the beauty of a sunset that melts from orange to red to crimson and purple. Whether we catalogue light as 550 nanometers or perceive it as "green" is all a matter of perspective. Are we dissecting the idea of "light" into its most basic components (measured nanometers)? Or are we responding to the expression of that light as we experience it in the world (colors)?

In Matthew's account of the "Sermon on the Mount," immediately after Jesus lays out his "blessed be" Beatitudes, he lifts up two metaphors of how disciples of the kingdom will be known to this world. They will be the "salt of the earth," they will be the "light of the world," a light that will "shine before others." Salt sharpens flavors. Light sharpens both sight and insight. Jesus is calling would-be followers of the kingdom to sharpen lives by living on the sharp, the cutting edges, the places where new perspectives, new tastes, and new visions are embraced.

Light does not just banish darkness and illuminate corners and crevices. Light also works to provide a new perspective...
Humor: The Language of God

There was a mother mouse who decided to teach her children about the world. So she gathered all of her little mice and set out for a walk. They walked down the hall and turned to the right. Then they went down the hall and took another right. And suddenly they found themselves in front of the family cat dozing in the sunlight. The mother mouse was scared. But she didn't want to give in to her fright. So she signaled to the children to be very quiet and to follow as she began to tip toe quietly and slowly past the sleeping cat. Just as she was about to get past the cat, the cat's eyes popped open and raised its paw.
The little mice were petrified. What would their mother do? Well, just as the cat's paw started to come down, that mother mouse looked the cat right in the eye and started barking like a dog. And do you know what? The cat was so startled and frightened that it jumped up and ran away! The mother mouse, wiped her brow, shook a little and then turned to her little mice and said, "Children, I hope you learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes it's good to know a second language!"

It's the same way with us. It's good to know a second language. Salt and light are the language of God; the language of Grace; the language of hope and love. And when this language is translated into action it becomes the most beautiful language ever spoken. We're called to be salt and light and to speak the language of God as we live our faith. We're called to live the Word.

Billy D. Strayhorn, The Salt and Light Brigade 

Reflect the Light
In an article entitled "Reflect the Light," Roble Nebres tells about the time he drove to the summit of Mt. Haleakala. After watching the sunset it became dark and he became anxious about the descent down the steep, winding road. When he left the parking lot the median strips on the road suddenly came alive with reflectorized lights. They provided a much needed directional guide on the mountain road.

The reflectors illuminated the way for Nebres, who made his descent safely down the treacherous mountain road. The reflectors, however, were useless without his headlights shining on them. The light they gave depended on the light from another source. Otherwise they could not help him see.

When Jesus told his disciples they were the "light of the world," he meant they were to be reflectors of the light of God. God is the illuminating source. God provides the light that is reflected from us. And God needs us to be reflectors of God's light to a world of darkness.

Keith Wagner, Are We Hiding Our Faith?

The story is told of a little girl who went to visit her grandparents. It seems as though they held Sunday as the Lord's day, and holy. They thought it should be a day of quietness, to walk, not run in it, and that the Bible was the only book that should be read. The granddaughter could not swing nor gather the flowers that grew in the pasture. While grandpa was taking his nap, she asked for permission to walk to the gate, and received it. Along the fence she stopped to watch the old mule, standing with his head bowed and his eyes closed. Reaching through the fence, she said, "Poor old fellow, have you got religion, too?"

Unfortunately, that is how many view Christianity. They are completely turned off by the legalism which has crept in unawares. Worst of all, perhaps, is the fact that we Christians are guilty of thinking of it as a virtue, rather than a vice.

Bob Deffinbaugh, The Fatal Failures of Religion: #2 Legalism
The Temptation We Face Everyday

"One night at the end of a special Saturday night worship service," writes Warren Hudson of Ontario, Canada, "a thunderstorm unleashed a bolt of lightning that plunged the church into darkness." With the congregation seated in total darkness, the pastor felt his way to the kitchen to find some candles. The pastor handed out the candles to everyone present. Persons lit their candles in much the same way as many churches do on Christmas Eve, each person lighting the candle of the person next to them. The worshipers then made their way through the church's winding hallways to the front door.

"Peering out, we could see the rain coming down in sheets," Warren remembers. With traffic snarled, people were running for the nearest shelter. Looking around they realized that the entire city was in darkness. "There in the darkness we stood," Warren writes, "a little band of Christians, each clutching a light, not sure whether to venture out into the storm or stay inside the church in hopes that the storm would soon blow over."

There in the darkness the light of truth struck him. In this most dramatic way he realized what it means to be the "light of the world." He writes, "It occurred to me then that this is the temptation I face every day. It is easy to play it safe and be a good Christian in church. It is a lot harder to venture out in faith into the storms of the world."

Warren Hudson, adapted by King Duncan, Collected Sermons,
A Better Influence
One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, "Guess what, Chuck. The first day of school and I got sent to the principal's office. It was your fault, Chuck." He said, "My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?" She said, "You're my friend, aren't you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me."

Eric S. Ritz, Salty Christians 
Where Is the Church?

John Stott, from Great Britain and a leading Reformed theologian, has these challenging words to say to the church today:

You know what your own country is like. I'm a visitor, and I wouldn't presume to speak about America. But I know what Great Britain is like. I know something about the growing dishonesty, corruption, immorality, violence, pornography, the diminishing respect for human life, and the increase in abortion.
Whose fault is it? Let me put it like this: if the house is dark at night, there is no sense in blaming the house. That's what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, "Where is the light?"

If meat goes bad, there is no sense in blaming the meat. That is what happens when the bacteria are allowed to breed unchecked. The question to ask is, "Where is the salt?"

If society becomes corrupt like a dark night or stinking fish, there's no sense in blaming society. That's what happens when fallen human society is left to itself and human evil is unrestrained and unchecked. The question to ask is "Where is the church?"

John Stott, adapted by Adrian Dieleman, The Salt of the Earth
Humor: Do You Sell Salt?
In his book Led by the Carpenter, D. James Kennedy writes:

"A man walked into a little mom-and-pop grocery store and asked, 'Do you sell salt?'

'Ha!' said Pop the proprietor. 'Do we sell salt? Just look!' And Pop showed the customer one entire wall stocked with nothing but salt. Morton salt, iodized salt, kosher salt, sea salt, rock salt, garlic salt, seasoning salt, Epsom salts, every kind imaginable.

'Wow!' said the customer.

'You think that's something?' said Pop with a wave of his hand. 'That's nothing! Come look.' Pop led the customer to a back room filled with shelves and bins and cartons and barrels and boxes of salt. 'Do we sell salt?' he said.

'Unbelievable!' said the customer.

'You think that's something?' said Pop. 'Come! I'll show you salt!' Pop led the customer down some steps into a huge basement, five times as large as the previous room, filled floor to ceiling, with every imaginable form and size and shape of salt, even huge ten-pound salt licks for the cow pasture.

'Incredible!' said the customer. 'You really do sell salt!'

'No!' said Pop. 'That's just the problem! We never sell salt! But that salt salesman? Hoo-boy! Does he sell salt!'"

Phil Thrailkill, The Privilege and the Price
Changing the World
It was during the early days of television. A workman was placing television transmitters at the very top of the Empire State building in New York City. Seeing him at work up there, so far off the ground, a reporter thought this would make a fascinating human interest story. So, when the workman had completed his task and had returned to the ground, the reporter approached him and asked, "Aren't you frightened to work under conditions like that that? Isn't it dangerous to work so high off the ground?" The workman replied, "Yes sir, it is dangerous." Then he added...“But then, how many people can say that they have changed the skyline of a city like New York!”
After relating that story, James McCormick comments: God offers us the privilege of changing the skyline not of a city, but of the world. We can help make this world healthier, more humane, more harmonious, and more blessed. God made a good world. Now He wants us to help Him make it good again. We can do that. By God’s grace, we really can do that. If we can, surely we must. The skyline of New York City can be changed by workmen building up the Empire State Building or by terrorists
tearing down the Twin Towers. All it takes is the vision and the determination to do it. The same can be said of this human society. Yes, God made us all good but we have to decide what we are going to do with God’s good gifts. 
All too often, I hear decent people talk and act as though evil is more powerful than good. What a lie! As St. Paul once said, where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more. When good people give evil so much power, they can let themselves get by with shirking their responsibility to change this world.
Sure, it is not easy once we and our society have become so immersed in sin. Sure, it is a burden to fight off the habits of selfishness and fear and vengeance and sexual abuses and greed and comfort seeking and polluting or you name any other of the modern-day deadly sins that have us in their grip. However, as the bishops at the Second Vatican Council said, it is a “splendid burden.”
The victory can be won. We can change the “skyline” of humanity. And, as McCormick said, “If we can, surely we must.” Never again let good people entertain the lie that we and this world are just the way we are and we cannot change.
Love, Fr. John