5th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
In today’s Gospel passage Jesus speaks again in the present tense, “You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world.” It is very common these days, upon entering a church or religious institution, to see the community’s “Mission Statement” prominently posted. Usually, such a statement is the result of a prayerful dialogue by the community to arrive at a description of its identity and mission in the light of the Gospel.
At one parish some members of the staff told me their Priest composed and published the statement without consulting members of the staff, parish council or parishioners. A woman said, “Since we didn’t have any input, how can we identify with and fulfill that mission statement? It’s not ours, it’s his She was right. But Jesus has that authority. Jesus’ mission statement to us, his followers, fits the requirement of a brief, focused and easily remembered summary of our task. Even those who don’t read much scripture can quote today’s teaching, “You are salt of the earth….You are light of the world.”
We are to be witnesses to the world. Jesus begins to describe the task for his disciples by using two images. We are to affect the world the way salt and light affect their environments. Salt seasons food, and in Jesus’ world, it was used as a preservative. It kept food from spoiling. Light removes or pushes the darkness back. Even one lighted match can be seen at a distance on a dark night. It doesn’t take much to have a surprising good effect when light is lacking.
With the salt image comes a warning. “But if salt loses its taste…it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Christians cannot merely co-exist and comfortably fit in we too could loose our saltiness and be trampled underfoot. We must change what needs changing. Remember the saying, “If it were a crime to be a Christian, would they have any evidence to convict you?” would the charges be against you and me be upheld and what exactly would we be convicted by? Hence, Jesus’ warning that salt can lose its capacity to season the food it is in and should be thrown out. We are sent on mission into the world to change it – not merely to live in it. Jesus tells his disciples that, though they are only few in number, they are salt.
The danger for the church is that, being in the world, we disciples can take on worldly ways and lose our “saltiness” to flavor those around us. We are called as Disciples to draw out goodness in the world by supporting what protects, nourishes and enhances life, while rejecting what limits or destroys it. For these and other positions of the status quo or the same old thing “salty disciples” are to be agents of change. If we cannot bring about more humane conditions for all, then Jesus is right, we are salt without flavor and useless for his purposes of passing on the good news. In the Gospel reading today, Jesus, says to those who had just heard His teaching on the Beatitudes, “You are the salt of the earth … you are the light of the world.” In this passage, Jesus urges them not to “light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket.” No, “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” We need always to look outward to those who are looking for light, as well as to those who have given up hope of ever finding it! As we hear the challenging mission Jesus gives us we can feel what those first disciples must have felt – we are not large or influential enough to affect the world and resist the powers that “run the world’s business.” On our own, that’s true.
But remember we are not on our own. Jesus began his words with a reminder of God’s blessings here and now. At this Eucharist, through Word and Sacrament, we are again formed and reformed by God. We are called to be salt of the earth people and followers of Jesus whom God blesses and Jesus sends on mission. We strive, with God’s grace, to live out the gospel mission statement Jesus has enfleshed by his life, death and resurrection.