•Isaiah 58: 7-10 * I Corinthians 2: 1-5 * Matthew 5: 13-16•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In September I invited three friends to join me for a hike up to a mountain lake in the Fish Creek drainage. We planned to rendezvous with two other friends at their cabin. I was driving and a simple mistake led to an experience that helps me illustrate today’s gospel text.
But first, lets examine the gospel. The few lines of today’s text are from three brief chapters of Matthew’s gospel. Those chapters came to be known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” They summarize the essential elements Matthew’s community remembered as the core of Jesus’ teaching about “the reign of God“ — God’s new reality” emerging in our world.
Those three chapters are so full of layers that we need to peel them back one at a time. Even after peeling them we still struggle to comprehend and embrace the implications personally.
The “you” addressed in this text were the disciples. “You are the salt of the Earth.” “You are the light of the world.” Those are not directions or ought to be’s. These are complimentary statements directed to the small community gathered around him. “You are the salt!” “You are the light.” In other words this little community was making a difference. They were influencingthose around them and dispelling the darkness surrounding them in their immediate world. Because of them “God’s new reality” was emerging.
After the compliments, Matthew’s Jesus adds a brief admonition. “Let your light shine.” Those around Jesus seemed “ordinary” to other folks. But as a community they were different! He encouraged them to continue living their ordinary lives in a manner that illuminates the darkness of the dominant culture.
The secret in being “salt” and “light” for others is simple. Open yourself and remain open to the Mystery of God. Allow the living Christ to inspire and move through you. Remember that neither money, nor property, nor prominence is important. It is important to be sincere and honest in your relationships – authentically human.
Here is how my simple mistake up Fish Creek illustrates all of this. We came to a fork in the road. I took the wrong fork. As we drove higher, the road became narrower and narrower. We came around a bend in the road and some fallen trees blocked our way. I backed up to allow the guy cutting firewood to finish. He came down to chat with us through the passenger side window.
He looked across at me and spooked me when he asked, “aren’t you Father Jim Hogan?”
As we chatted, he recalled meeting me about 35 years ago. I was the pastor of Holy Family in the south hills and he lived on Briggs Street. The parish had wanted to build our own building and we did. He still remembered that when our new building was finished, I came and knocked on his door. We had blocked the view out of his kitchen window. I apologized to him.
I simply did what all of you would have done. He never forgot it! I recall that story to illustrate what it means for ordinary folks like us to be “salt” and “light.”
We live in dark times. Even a short list of issues is long. The ultimate antidote to all the darkness that surrounds us is LOVE! — being “salt” and “light.” How is your love life?
The gospel today is a reminder for each of us. “You are the salt.” “You are the light.” Keep shining a beacon of love and hope into the negativity that surrounds us. Be sensitive to others. Be grateful and show it. Stand up for and speak out for those who are violated or abused in any way. In doing so you are enabling “God’s new reality” to emerge among us.
Never forget. “You are the salt.” “You are the light.” Your neighbors understand what I mean!!