Saturday, February 8, 2014

Salt and Light

Reflections on the Readings

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 9, 2014 - Year A

Salt and Light

"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…Your are the light of the world." - Jesus

You are the Salt of the Earth

Jesus speaks to us today of the reality of Christian witness. Speaking in metaphors, Jesus highlights the enduring and illuminating factors of genuine evangelization. And from Paul we learn that we need not possess the ability to speak in sublime and eloquent words to be salt and light. Nor should we think we must be powerful and persuasive with the wisdom that is of this world. The simple yet powerful pictures of salt and light eloquently describe the simple and potent faith that is ours in Christ Jesus. 

Paul speaks of Jesus in the second reading as the testimony of God's love revealed in the mystery of the cross. Paul's trembling and weakness does not describe his fear of the Corinthians, but rather describes his deep and profound gratitude for Jesus Christ and him crucified. I think we all agree that Paul was truly salt and light!

Think of the most impressive people you have ever known. Perhaps it is a grandma or grandpa. Maybe you know someone who is trustworthy and dependable and endearing. Or maybe you can recall a special person from your past and immediately you have fond memories of their life and friendship. We speak of such people as being the salt of the earth. They are loving, kind, dependable; a strength and solace to the small, the least, and the afflicted. In their heart is the peace of God and in their life they glorify him in their gentleness and kindness. The love of God in their heart is why they are warm and tenderhearted and care for the least, the lost, and the lonely. 

I've known such people. And when I think of them, I long to be like them because they were so much like Jesus. They were in my life and now they are in my memory. People like mom and dad are always a familiar face in my parade of special people. And there is 'Snuffy' and 'Doc,' fellers who graced congregations I was privileged to pastor. These and so many more are treasures of grace in my life. I remember them as people whose love for Jesus was fervent and whose love for the downtrodden was real. 

You are the Light of the World

Jesus continues his description of distinctive Christian life and witness by saying, "You are the light of the world." Remember that Jesus does not say we must be salt and light. He emphatically declares that we are salt and light. This is who we are. Have you noticed how much the readings of late talk about light. We've heard how Jesus is the light of the Gentiles, and how the Gentile have seen a great light. Those who sit in darkness are no longer in darkness because God's light is now in the world in a special and miraculous way in the babe that lay in a manger.

We are light. And like a city set on hill that cannot be hidden, we should not diminish the light that we are. If someone lights a candle and then hides it under something to prevent its light to be effective, it is an impotent candle. It's like it never was lit. When we shine with the love of Christ its not to draw attention to ourselves. It's not for any selfish reason that we are the light of the world. We are the light of the world to show the world Jesus. It is Jesus we are wanting the world to see. Every good work, every good thing done in his name helps people to believe that Jesus is real; that he cares for them; that he has not forgotten them.

One of the most notable ways we have witnessed the downtrodden and poor helped in our lifetime is through the life and ministry of Mother Theresa. The homeless and helpless on the streets of Calcutta have certainly seen a great light. In the darkness of their destitution Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity are a light in their world. And what about the Little Sisters of the Poor. Their front door is always open and their light is always on giving the elderly poor a hospitable welcome in the name of Christ. And also there is the meal and dessert Christian families share with homeless families through Family Promise in our area and countless Rescue Missions across America that offer warm food and shelter to the people on the streets.

Salt and Light. That's who we are. Through the smiles we give and the hand up we offer we are meeting the needs of real people in real ways. It is very difficult to imagine that anyone anywhere in this world lives in darkness and goes to bed hungry. But it is happening. And that person may be next door. Let us open up our hearts and somehow get the salt out of the salt shaker and put the candle in the candle holder. Because no one should have to live next door, or down the street, or half away around the world without salt and light - You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at:


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