You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5: 13-16
Reflection – So we’re going through the Sermon on the Mount, as a way to bask in the light of faith and receive its light into our minds and hearts better. I decided to skip the Beatitudes, not because they don’t matter, but because they matter all too much, and merit a blog series all of their very own at some future date.
Here we see the Lord telling us at the outset of the sermon that we are very important people, we who follow Christ and are baptized into his life, death, and resurrection. We carry a treasure within ourselves that is not for ourselves, but for the world.
Both images – salt and light – are things that are for others, as we understand them. Salt preserves food from corruption; light illuminates a room. They exist, in a sense, for others. Sometimes when we try to talk about the privileges and gifts given to Christians we go awry, like we are somehow God’s favorites, his special little snowflakes who get all the goodies while the rest of world languishes in darkness and starvation.
But everything we have been given is for the rest of the world. That’s the key thing. All the treasures of spiritual life—the virtues of faith, hope, and love, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the very indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit—none of that is for us to hug to ourselves because God loves us so much and doesn’t love those other people over there quite so much.
Not at all like that. God gives us what he gives us, and we are indeed precious valuable creatures, the light of the world, the salt of the earth. But it’s all so we can pass it on to others. Evangelical Catholicism is the buzz word of the day in some quarters. I don’t mind the phrase at all, but let’s be clear: evangelical Catholicism is really Catholic Catholicism. A Catholicism missing an evangelical heart is a Catholicism without a heart, a Catholicism that has forgotten it is salt and light for the world.
Pope Francis said just the other day that prayer which does not result in concrete action for others is sterile, fruitless prayer. Some wondered if he was dismissing contemplative life by this statement. I can’t imagine that. What he surely meant was that prayer, if it is real prayer, leads us to love, and love is ordered to the good of the beloved. We are called to be passionate lovers of the world, even if that love is expressed in a monastic cell in prayer and penance for the world.
Salt and light—we are something special indeed, but that specialness puts a serious burden of responsibility on us. We can lose the saltiness, hide the light. And as Mauriac said, “The day you no longer burn with love, many will die of the cold.” Being a Christian is hard, but it’s what we signed up for.