5th Sunday Ordinary Time – A – Abbot Joel

Abbey 2014                                                           Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

Isaiah 58:7–10
1 Corinthians 2:1–5
Matthew 5:13–16

 Today Jesus is all about discipleship. He is clarifying and also calling us to be present to who we are: we that are captivated by him and follow him. To make the concept of discipleship as concrete as possible and to make sure that discipleship does not remain in the ideal state or in the mind, Jesus offers us two very familiar things to get hold of discipleship: salt and light. Both are commonplace and ordinary. Salt for taste and for preservation is very easily detectable and so is a light in a dark room. You cannot miss that!

 The important thing here is that Jesus assumes that we are salt, assumes that we are already light. Jesus speaks to us in the present tense, “You are the salt…..You are the light…”  “You are the salt of the earth.” The implication is that we already have a “taste”; we already have a gift, a talent, a quality that enables us to give taste to a relationship, to a situation, to a way of living. Jesus could have come up with alternative statements about our present condition: “You are no good,” “You are a sinner,” ”You have nothing to say.” Instead Jesus begins with the positive. Your presence, your life adds something to the human story. Your being, your presence makes a difference in the community.

 When Jesus uses the metaphor “You are the salt of the earth” in referring to his disciples, he is basically saying you have a responsibility to add flavor and zest to the world. You are the one who will allow the world to taste the goodness of the Lord, as the psalmist says. The world, human society, the gathering of the disciples in the Church—all need the salt you bring. It might be a salt of love and compassion, it might be the salt of conviction in the gospel way of life, or it might be a salt that takes out the dullness that the world and society sink into. Put salt on a wound and it smarts at first, but it brings healing. You are the salt of healing to the wounded around us. You and I bring the salt of Jesus’ word that consoles and binds up. You and I bring the salt of his touch that says you are not alone, our God walks with you.

 The worse thing that can happen is that a disciple of Jesus loses his or her saltiness, loses their conviction in the gospel and what it looks like. The community and the world become less tasteful, less inviting when the disciples of Jesus renege on their saltiness. That means lose their conviction in what God is doing in the world through Christ, the crucified one. There is negative side to Jesus comparison to salt: it can lose its saltiness. That observation of Jesus is not meant to be a threat but meant to make us dig deeper into ourselves to name our own salt. Where is that salt in me that I am not using that I am not putting into the mix of my community, our world.

 Jesus also gives us another comparison for discipleship. You are the light of the world. Being light is perhaps a more familiar comparison. After all it begins with our baptism ritual when we are handed a candle lit from the Easter candle and told to keep it aflame till the end when it will join the lights of all the saints to welcome the Lord on the final morn. Two things can be said about this reference to light. The first is that Jesus relates the light to good deeds, to actions. Like salt, light does not exist for itself, it immediately interacts with another in order to be true itself. A single light in a single-room dwelling as in Jesus time would make life possible for all in the room. It would remove the cloud of darkness and bring all into the light.

 It is Isaiah today who spells out the meaning of being a light filled person. The prophet spells out what Jesus means by saying you are the light of the world. Doing the work of light is related to the basics for human life even survival: food, shelter and clothing. “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, and clothe naked.” These three remain as the foundation of any approach to enhance human life on earth. Anyone involved in this activity is light in a dark world. Anyone involved in such good work is in fact living out the covenant or in Jesus language is living the Kingdom of God.

 This leads to the second point about “You are the light of the world.” Being light in such a way, allowing light to shine by interacting within these essential dimensions of human need is in effect a proclamation that this is where God is acting. Doing good works brings light but it also reveals who your God is. The person who is salt and light somehow points to the source of the taste, the origin of the light. Jesus says that whoever encounters you as salt and light should be able to say, “Ah, here is where God is. Here is where the Father of the world and its people is showing his love and his heart.” “Now I can see and taste God’s goodness, kindness and compassion.” This is the God who revealed himself on Mt. Sinai, this is the God who showed us his face in his Son Jesus.  Disciples who are salt and light do not draw attention to themselves. Instead, they are merely saying that the Kingdom of God is coming, in fact it is at hand.

 There is one last comparison Jesus leaves us with. You are to be like a city set on a mountain, you cannot be hidden. Is this not the community of the Church? Visible from afar, a beacon, a guide through the rough places below and a goal to be reached. The prophets constantly saw Jerusalem and the community of Israel as a light that attracts others. It is attractive because it has a word to live by and because it knows how to take care of its own members and others as well. Jesus tells us that our life as Church is to be visible and in our life other people should find a new way of living out their humanity. It is to be a way that is caring, gracious, tasty, vigorous and above all filled with a light that, no matter how dark the world is, it always remains radiant in the hope that comes from the power of the Risen Lord.

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