Welcome to sackcloth, ashes and hairshirts! However, if this is your chosen Lenten garb, remember that you need the permission of your regular confessor! Personally I would never allow it...
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 5: 13 – 16] records two of the best-known images and analogies recorded by Jesus ….. (i) “you are the salt of the earth”, and (ii) “you are the light of the world.”
It is essential for us to locate these two remarks of the Lord in their actual context – which was the
SERMON ON THE MOUNT. Who were those listening? Matthew tells us that the sermon was given to the crowds who were following him. These crowds were ordinary folk – just like us! They were no specialist theologians, the Jewish clergy, or the leaders – NO! There is an urgent need for nus to see ourselves as members of that group of the ordinary …. and this was “the teaching Jesus gave.”
Now, if we take a look at OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 CORINTHIANS 2: 1 – 5] Saint Paul tells us his proclaiming of the word of God was not “in lofty words or wisdom.” He adds, however, that instead of “plausible words” there is a “demonstration of the Spirit and power.”
Against this Pauline emphasis let us return to the images Jesus presents in our Gospel extract. Salt of the earth and light of the world …. nothing lofty or plausible about them?! However, if we ARE salt and light, the TEACHING of Jesus informs us that we will (not could!) powerfully demonstrate the Spirit.
Sometimes I sense that if things written, taught or presented do not appear to be deeply erudite, highly intellectual, or complicated then many see no real value in them. The profound, in my experience, is very often only expressed in genuine simplicity. Be careful not to equate simplicity with stupidity. Salt of the earth and light of the world …. simple images which communicate powerful realities. All too often the official, teaching, documents of the Church are too complicated and involved – expressed in language which fails to grip both mind and heart. The teaching Jesus gave is not like this. Is this not one of the strengths of Pope Francis who expresses profound truths in simple terms which are easily understood (and applauded) by ordinary folk?
Have we, the disciples of the Lord, failed to demonstrate our faith in a way that not only preserves (one of the functions of salt) but also gives a real taste to its living and present reality? It is no good preserving something unless it is intended to be USED! Then, how do we shape as LIGHTS? Light has a purpose, role and function – to enable and empower people to SEE WHAT IS THERE AND BE EMPOWERED FOR ACTION! Have I kept the light of my faith and discipleship a carefully hidden and guarded secret? Have I preserved (the salt!) it for my own personal use and perceived advantage? This Sunday’s Gospel challenges us in the very opposite direction: “let your light so shine before men, that they may see …” Salt, as we know, can eventually lose its taste – and too many Christian electricity supplies suffer from outages!
Little wonder that so many have ‘jumped ship’ in order to find something tastier and brighter
. We need to stop polishing our own halos, and begin providing others with the necessary ‘brasso’ – – – otherwise, do not be surprised if many become brassed-off.
You may recall that last week’s reflection made reference to Pope Francis’ art of accompaniment and our call to accompany others in their life and living – but always to take off our sandals in the presence of their lives?
Well, being salt and light is surely the foundation of all such accompaniment? If you have reservations about this then
THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [[ISAIAH 58: 7 – 10] should dissolve any doubt?
“Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house when you see the naked, cover him, and do not hide yourself from your own flesh. Then shall your light break forth like the dawn …”
WHAT A GREAT ACCOMPANIMENT THIS IS!?
To provide salt and light seldom involves awe-inspiring outreaches and enterprises that grab the attention of the masses. In the majority of circumstances it simply challenges us not to “hide yourself from your own flesh.“
There should be an urgency within each one of us to remove our sandals in the face of hunger, homelessness, and nakedness. The removing of our sandals is the beginning of accompaniment. When we remove our sandals, we come out of hiding – and there is little worse than hiding ourselves from our own.
I must show myself – not in lofty or plausible words, but in a clear demonstration of the Spirit and power.