The WORD in other words (2023) by Fr. Elmer I. Ibarra, SVD — Santa Teresa, Central Australia
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time / A
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Papal Mass in Ecuador
Imagine a sumptuous dinner without salt. Everything is flavorless and bland! Salt is a very important element of human life. Time was when it was as precious as gold; “white gold” it was called. Two qualities of salt make it indispensable: it makes food tasty and, before refrigeration was invented, it was used to preserve food.
When Jesus in the Gospel said “You are the salt of the earth” it is actually a compliment and also a challenge. When we season our food with salt, we only use very little of it, most of the time no more than a pinch. Anything more than that would ruin the food and cause countless diseases. And yet, with just a few grains it can make all the difference in our food.
When Matthew was writing his gospel, he knew that Christians were just the minority and he knew that if Christians were to make a difference in the world, they should do something that would make Christians stand out.
The challenge for Christians in this world today is to be able to achieve and make a difference in this world. Sometimes, we don’t want to take that challenge to be a difference. We don’t want to stand out and just go with the flow. We should not forget that it is through how we do things differently that have attracted more people to become Christian.
Why is it that in difficult times, people of great faith have managed to have a positive attitude in times of trials? Why do people who are suffering still manage to find meaning in their pains and rely on their faith in God to make it through? It is in accepting the challenge to become the salt of the earth that would make us stand out as Christians. Blending too much with the world invites the danger of losing our own saltiness, becoming useless, and deserving to be trampled underfoot.
During baptism, either as adult or infant, there’s a part of the ceremony when we, through our parents or godparents, receive a lighted candle as the priest or deacon says, “Receive the light of Christ.” And we believe that as we receive the light of Christ we also become lights of Christ. And this light that burns within us will continue to burn until the day we die. The question is what do we do when we receive this light.
The second part of the Gospel is challenging us to become the light of the world. Jesus knew that a lamp hidden or put under a bushel basket is absolutely useless.
Whenever we do something good, it is just a product of the grace that God has given us. For example, if we forgive somebody who has done us wrong or has cheated us, we forgive because grace gives us the capacity to forgive, and the same is true in every good deed that we do. Every good deed that we do is a glorification of God the Father.
There was a car plate that I saw one day while I was driving on the streets of Sydney and it said, “If you are arrested for being a Christian, would you have enough evidence to be convicted?”
It is quite uncomfortable nowadays to stand out and declare that we’re Christians. Christianity seems to be confined inside the church, in the name of obligation, but when we go out of the church after the mass, there also goes our Christianity.
Jesus is asking us to be Christians not only when we go to church but more importantly outside of it. We are called to become the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” because of our special mission to make a difference in this world. Our good works however small they are would identify ourselves as Christians.