Before the days of well-stocked supermarket shelves, salt was an expensive and coveted commodity. It was the one thing that couldn’t be grown or produced locally. It had to be bought. Salt does more than make foods tastier. It is a preservative, very necessary before the age of electricity, refrigerators, and freezers. It is an essential nutrient for the body. In times gone by, salt licks were natural deposits of salt where wild animals would instinctively gather … and so, salt licks became natural hunting grounds for humans.
Before the days of widespread electricity and the lightbulb, dispelling darkness was limited and limiting, Poor people who could not afford candles, oil for lamps, or even firewood for a fire would go to bed with sundown and darkness. For those who could afford oil for one lamp or a single candle, the light emitted was rather dim, adequate only to see large objects unless one was very close to the source of light.
Jesus uses salt and light, two things common and necessary for enhanced life, to describe the essential gifts discipleship brings to the world. Disciples are called to be salt and light for others. In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to assess whether our discipleship has lost its potency because our salt has become flat and / or our light has become dim. The good news is that no matter how bland or dim our discipleship, Jesus Christ will never throw us out, trample us underfoot, or hide us. Here is the twist of the Gospel: Jesus calls us disciples to be “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” yet to be such, Christ must be our salt and our light. We need to first encounter Jesus Christ who always remains with us, making it possible for us to grow and mature in our discipleship.
We can be faithful disciples – salt that seasons others in Gospel living and light that dispels the uncertainty and lack of clear direction – when, as disciples in the Gospel, we listen to Jesus and allow Him to guide us. To be fruitful disciples, the first relationship we must foster is with Jesus Christ. This relationship ensures that we are not just any salt or any light, but Christ’s. Disciples do not act alone, but are always instruments in God’s hand who, through God’s power acting in them, do good for others. We are the salt licks attracting others to Jesus. We are the light that makes clear for others the way to Christ.
While the Gospel uses metaphors to help us understand who we are as disciples of Jesus, this is not simply pretty language that may give us a poetic thrill but then be forgotten. The First Reading makes very concrete the Gospel metaphors. We are vindicated when we act decisively as God acts: we are “to feed the hungry,” “shelter the oppressed and homeless,” “clothe the naked,” remove oppression and refrain from “malicious speech.” Practically speaking for us today, this might mean that we get involved in some of the Parish ministries or Pastoral Council, to get involved in social outreach, the Parish Food Pantry or the Diocesan clothing drives, or we might tutor schoolchildren. Maybe being Christ-salty or Christ-shining simply means we take stock of our already too-busy days and reflect on what has value or meaning for the good of others and what has become just habit for the sake of habit – to no real avail. Discipleship always involves ongoing discernment about how we are in relation to God and others. Anything short of being the best person we can be as instruments of salvation is selling short of being true to ourselves.
May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!
~ Fr. Larry