THE SALT OF THE EARTH AND THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
(A biblical refection on THE 5th ORDINARY SUNDAY (YEAR A), 5 February 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:13-16
First Reading: Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalms: Psalm 112:4-9; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 2:1-5
The Scripture Text
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5:13-16 RSV)
Jesus was a successful teacher/rabbi because He always grabbed the attention of His audience by talking about something that was a big part of their lives. Many of Jesus’ parables were stories about fishing, farming, and herding because those were the three main occupations in his days. Jesus knew people were bound to listen a little more attentively when He began talking about something they knew very well.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about salt and light because He is probably trying to get the attention of the women in His audience. The salt Jesus talks about was much like rock salt. Jewish women wrapped salt in a clean cloth and dangled it in a boiling pot of soup. When the soup was ready, they took the salt that did not dissolve and saved it for the next time they needed it. After the cook did this on several occasions, the salt lost its flavour and was only good for throwing on the wet cobblestone walks after a rainstorm. This made the cobblestones less slick.
Salt was also a preservative. Freshly slaughtered meat sold in the open air markets did not last long in the Palestinian heat unless it was salted. Like refrigeration today, salt prevented food from spoiling.
In ancient Palestine, the ordinary family lived in a one-room house illuminated in the evening by a single oil lamp on a stand. Making sure there was enough oil for the lamp was the woman’s responsibility. This was very important because without this light, family members would not have been able to see what they were doing and would have had to retire to bed much earlier than planned.
As the salt of the earth, Jesus’ followers not only make the world better (just as salt makes food taste better) but they also preserve what is good and holy (just as salt was a preservative). As the light of the world, they help others to see God. Just as both salt and light were important in the days when there were no refrigerators and electricity, Christians are important to the world today.
Now, how are we salt and light to each of our families, our neighbors, and our friends? Is our parish salt and light to the community? If our parish were dissolved today, would anyone miss it?
Short Prayer: Heavenly Father, by Your Holy Spirit, remind us always about our dignity as Christians, meaning the followers or disciples of Christ. Amen.
Jakarta, 3 February 2017
A Christian Pilgrim