Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Since the days of Advent,
right up to last Sunday’s feast of the Presentation of the Lord,
we’ve been reflecting quite a bit on light…
…so this Sunday, I thought it best for us
to get salty instead.
Last Sunday was the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life,
so last Saturday night Fr. Tom and I hosted
the Ursuline Sisters and the Grey Nuns for dinner.
It was a delightful evening.
But it’s always a challenge
when you have Sr. Rita Frances over for a meal:
she’s rather allergic to garlic…
…and garlic is in a lot more things than you ever stop to realize.
But even when you’ve certified that all the food is 100% garlic-free,
there’s another issue Sister must face:
following surgery a few years back,
she lost nearly all of her sense of taste.
Being a bit of a “foodie,”
I can’t begin to imagine what a heavy cross that would be!
You keep eating, of course, because you still get hungry
and you need to fuel your body,
and you chew every bite to get it down,
but without any of the usual delight that flavor brings.
Which is precisely why Sr. Rita Frances
was giddy as a schoolgirl last Saturday night:
for some reason, she could taste everything that I brought to the table.
It was like I’d sprinkled it with pixie dust or something.
She practically floated out the door—so happy was she—
when dinner was over,
and was still talking glowingly about the meal on Friday.
“You are the salt of the earth,” says Jesus.
Salt is the most common of seasonings.
There’s hardly a recipe in which salt does not show up.
It’s a rather ordinary part of our daily lives.
Jesus is telling us that we Christians need to be everywhere,
that our faith needs to be brought to bear on every aspect of life.
Not something reserved for special occasions,
our relationship with him must be a part of everyday living.
Like salt, we should get into everything,
so that Jesus can get into everything.
As a seasoning, salt doesn’t exist for it’s own sake.
Salt is used to enhance other flavors.
(No one sits down to eat a plate of it alone, after all.)
When used properly, salt is a humble seasoning:
not drawing attention to itself,
but highlighting flavors which are already there—
bringing out the best in whatever it touches.
Likewise, Jesus is telling us that we Christians
don’t manufacture God’s presence or grace;
our mission is to make them more evident—
not working for our own sakes but for those of others,
and not—like salt—drawing the attention to ourselves.
Salt isn’t only used to season food;
it’s also used to preserve it.
In an age before refrigeration, especially in a hot climate,
uncured meat would go bad rather quickly.
In a world filled with corrupting powers,
we need spiritual preservatives, too,
to prevent souls from being spoiled.
Jesus is telling us that salty Christians, sprinkled all around,
must have that saving effect.
And while salt is used to season,
it’s not like herbs and spices which are blended in
merely for our pleasure or amusement.
Salt is an essential nutrient for life—necessary and indispensible.
Jesus is telling us that the world would be in rather tough shape
if we weren’t in the mix making his presence known.
Is it possible to add too much salt?
And when salt is overdone,
it not only ruins the taste of things
but is also bad for your health.
Yet on a spiritual level,
the greater danger is not too much salt, but too little.
Christians who fail to stay salty—
who lose touch with their purpose in the world,
who become untrue to their Christ-given mission—
aren’t good for very much else.
Does your faith give flavor and relish to your life?
Is it the joyful seasoning which enhances everything else?
A healthy preservative from temptation and sin?
An essential nutrient you can’t live without?
Because if the salt of faith has gone flat for you,
then it’s going to be hard to go out
and be salty for others.
We live in a world that has lost much of its sense of taste.
Many folks keep trying to tickle their taste buds…
…but end up swallowing all the wrong things.
In an otherwise dull, even bitter, existence,
the world around us desperately needs Christians
filled with zest and joy, with zeal and enthusiasm.
Let Jesus season your life—all of it—
and then go:
be the salt of the earth.