Salt & light
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 5th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME, February 5, 2023:
In our Gospel today, we continue to make our way through the Sermon on the Mount. Last week, we heard Jesus share the Beatitudes. Today we hear another well-known part of the sermong, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” We know this passage well, and it is one of the most affirming passages in all of the Gospels. Jesus today is affirming the beautiful witness of faith that we – you and I – share with the world every day. As I reflected on this Gospel, what kept coming to me were images of different people that I encounter shining that light brightly and bringing the full flavor of the Gospel to bear.
For example, I kept thinking about my grandfather and in particular the night that he returned to Heaven. When he passed, of course, there was sadness, but it wasn’t the same kind of sadness that we often experience with a loss. And that was because we knew where he was going. My grandfather lived his life as a deeply prayerful Catholic man, devoted to God; devoted to the Church; devoted to his wife, children and grandchildren; a fire-fighter devoted to service. He was a man that everyone knew and loved. In fact, although his name was Sylvester, everyone called him ”Buddy” and indeed he was. He always had a smile on his face, a joke to tell (that he never told correctly), a joyful song to sing (whether or not he could carry a note), and a kind word to share. For me, he was a model of how a good, holy, Christian man lives his life. And as I held his hand surrounded by family that night, there was a sense of joy in the room because we knew he was receiving the reward that God had prepared for him. He was truly the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
And as I speak of him today, I’m sure you’re thinking of someone in your life who was or is salt and light. We all know people like my grandfather and the holiness of lives inspires us. We can be tempted to think that holiness is something abstract or an ideal. But, holiness is as real and tangible as you and I are. We can be tempted to think that holiness is something rare and only for the privileged few –like St. Francis, St. Mother Teresa or St. John Paul the 2nd. But, holiness is actually as common as salt and light. When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” He didn’t say, “you will be,” He said you are! He was reminding us, His followers, that we are holy right now and we’re not meant to keep that holiness hidden – the world needs us to offer it the flavor of the Gospel, the world needs us to light the way by our acts of goodness. Holiness is not something we earn or receive as a reward, it is something that we live out day by day, act by act, moment by moment.
Jesus, in calling us salt and light, knows how good we are; how holy we are; and He encourages us to share that with the world. All of us here are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. If we look around, we just might realize that we meet holiness in and through each other every day. We can see it in the commitment of those who come to daily Mass; in those devoted to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary; in those who have raised faithful families and taught them to share love God and His church. We can see holiness in the young people joyfully coming to church with a smile on their face; in those who care for the needy of our community at our Pope Francis Outreach Center; in those whose ministry brings them to prisons and nursing homes and homeless shelters; we see it in our bereavement ministers who accompany grieving families through the loss of a loved one; we see this holiness in the sick and the dying facing the greatest challenge of their lives with faith. Once our eyes are opened, we see that holiness is all around us – as common as salt and light.
If there is a challenge to be found for us today it is this – to expand the area of goodness and holiness in our lives. If we are reaching out this far in goodness, let us agree to reach out that much farther. Pope Francis said, “It’s curious, both salt and light are for others, not for oneself: salt does not give flavor to itself; light does not illuminate itself. The Christian is salt given to others by God. Our attitude must be to give of ourselves, to give flavor to the lives of others, to give flavor to many things with the message of the Gospel, to light the world with the light of Christ.” Where can we love more, care more, forgive more, help more, be present more, pray more – extend that holiness farther than it is today?
Jesus wants us to know today that holiness is not only our destination it is also our present reality – always in need of purification and perfection, of course; but we are already the salt of the earth and the light of the world and our good deeds give glory and praise to our Heavenly Father.
Let us leave this place and light the world with God’s love and spread the flavor of the Gospel wherever we go.
May the Lord give you peace.
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