Matthew 5:13-16, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord offers us two familiar images of how His disciple should make a difference in the world: salt and light. Like salt to water, we are called to change the world by giving it flavor. Like light to night, the good deeds we do are expected to serve as a shining example to inspire others to do the same.
As always, our Lord could not have put it more clearly or vividly. We get it immediately. Of course if salt has lost its taste, it will have lost its use. This is what salt does! Of course if light is hidden under a bushel basket, it will serve no purpose. What is light for if not to shine in the darkness? Likewise if a disciple does not make a difference in the world, there is no point in remaining the Lord’s disciple. The message to the disciple is loud and clear: Don’t be coy. Make a difference by doing good and inspiring others to do the same. Salten the earth and shine on the world.
What the Lord doesn’t mention is that discipleship–like all things human and temporal–undergoes seasons and cycles. We aren’t always at our saltiest, nor are we always at our brightest. Our relationship with the Lord and our prayer lives go through their ups and downs: Sometimes they’re strong and intense, others they–for reasons both of our doing and beyond–they wane and waver.
Also, sometimes we may be working very hard and trying our very best to do our share in following the Lord, but people and things get in the way: Events transpire to keep our efforts from yielding their desired fruits, or worse, other people conspire and–for various agendas of their own–deliberately impede our work by refusing to cooperate or by sabotaging our efforts, even attacking our persons.
In such cases, it is a real temptation to think that when the Lord says, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” he is referring only to a select group of disciples, those who are not only spiritually sound but also apostolically successful. We may begin to think that Jesus is not speaking at all to his lesser disciples–those of us who are struggling spiritually or facing difficulties or even failures in our attempts to follow him. If we go down this route, we may just end up giving up and yielding to the temptation to grow bland and dim.
I’d like to think that the Lord’s call to salten the earth and brighten the world is addressed especially to those disciples, those among us who are facing difficulties in following of Jesus. More than anyone else, we mustn’t lose hope and give up. More than anyone else, we must exert every effort to intensify the flavor and luminance of our Christian lives. And we know we have the Lord to turn to, He Who is the Bread of Life and the Light of the World.
Whatever we do then, we mustn’t give up. The last thing we must do is to yield to the temptation of growing bland and dim. Doing that will make only one person happy–and it isn’t God.
So, let’s ask ourselves: Are we going bland and dim?