Reflection for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Life without salt and light is unimaginable because salt and light are two necessary realities we may not dispense with. Significantly salt and light share striking similarities. First, they do not go unnoticed; in other words, they always make an impact. Second, they do not expire in their natural ambiance and potency.
Furthermore, salt and light are always on time whenever they show up. So, what do you think when the Scripture (Psalm 34:8) says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him?” The taste refers to salt, and the see refers to light. They give us access to the goodness of the Lord; let us see how they do this from the spiritual perspective.
You Are the Salt and Light of the World
In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 5:13-16), our Lord Jesus Christ continues the second section of the sermon on the mount by making two striking statements to his disciples: “you are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world.”
We first need to know that Jesus was not telling them what they shall become but what they are already. What is at stake is effective functioning as salt and light, not the process of becoming the two realities as most readers of the passage falsely believe. For instance, we cannot talk of becoming human beings but living as humans as we are already human beings.
To understand the perspective of our Lord Jesus Christ on functioning as salt and light, we need to scan through the natural abilities of these elements and relate them to our Christian vocation.
Salt: During the time of our Lord Jesus Christ, salt was a very rare and essential commodity. A significant part of the payment of a Roman soldier was called salarium, which comes from the Latin Sal, which is salt. From Salarium, we derive the name salary; so salt used to be a salary.
There are many uses for salt, but three are crucial for our reflection: seasoning, preservation, and healing.
Seasoning: The first significant usage of salt is seasoning, in other words, to add taste to food. Food without salt will be bland. This is because the taste we get from food makes us desire to eat, and after eating, we also get some aftertaste.
When Jesus said you are the salt of the earth, he meant that we should be the seasoning that would bring the desirable and needed taste in every part of the earth, starting from our families and communities.
Preservation: Before the advent of electricity, salting was one of the most functional preservation technology available for fish, meat, and other food items. We can only imagine how essential salt was when there were no refrigerators.
When Jesus said, you are the salt of the earth he was implying that the disciple should be a preservative of every good thing expressed in the life and mission of the Lord. To be able to preserve, the salt needs to be potent.
Healing: Salt is powerful as a healing agent. It accelerates the healing process for wounds while also creating conditions that make it difficult for bacteria to survive. When Jesus said you are the salt of the earth, he meant that the disciple should be a healing agent to the earth wounded by sin and disconnection from God.
Light: Light is one phenomenon that pervades every reality. Science defines it as electromagnetic radiation that is perceptible by the eye. The first common usage of light is for sight, to see, and to be seen. For our reflection, we shall look at three functional aids of light: life, dispelling darkness, and showing the way.
Life: There is an organic relationship between light and life. Almost all animals and plants require light directly or indirectly to survive in their ecosystem. Recall that God created light before creating life (Genesis 1:3). And when Jesus came as the light, John tells us that in him is life and that life is the light of mankind (John 1:4).
As the light of the world, Jesus challenged the disciples to bring life to the dead-ends of the world. The First Reading (Isaiah 58:7-10) recommends charity to the poor and oppressed as a way of shining forth the light to enhance life.
Dispelling darkness: The Gospel of John (1:5) says, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Darkness gets its power from the absence of light.
Being the light of the world implies bringing the light wherever darkness has a stronghold. Writing to the Ephesians (5:11), St. Paul says, “have nothing to do with the unfruitful. works of darkness but rather expose them”. The only way to expose darkness is to bring light.
Showing the right way: This means shining. In the Gospel Reading, Jesus said that people don’t light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket; rather, they put it on a stand to give light to all in the house.
Light will be useless if it fails to show the right way to follow by shining. So, as the light of the world, Christians should be able to lead people in the right direction through words and actions.
Moving Forward: Let Your Salt be Good and Let Your Light Shine
In the narrative, our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated that there are conditions where salt may lose its potency to the point that it loses its value only to be discarded. In a related way, he instructed that the light should shine to disclose good works and give glory to God.
Here, we understand that we are only the salt of the earth and light of the world to the extent that we are not productive of what we are called. Notice that Jesus did not give a midway; so, if you are salt, you must be good, and if you are light, you must shine.
As we continue the journey with the Lord in the season of flourishing, may we strive to become more productive with our “saltness” in the earth and our “lightness” in the world. Let us strive to function according to what we are: salt and light!
God bless you.