|5th Sunday in Ordinary time, 5 Feb 2017|
From the Dean’s Desk
Matthew’s Gospel has always been referred to as a teaching Gospel. In fact, his Gospel contains five sermons or discourses – the Sermon on the Mount [Chs 5-7]; the sermon on Missionary activity [Ch 10]; the sermon on the Kingdom of heaven [Ch 13]; the sermon on the aspects of Community living, especially in the area of forgiveness [Ch 18] and the sermon on the Last Times [Chs 24-25]. The Gospels for the Ordinary Sundays of this year will be taken primarily from these sections. Over the next three Sundays we will hear from Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. This section covers three chapters in Matthew’s Gospel [chapters 5-7] and it is the basis of Jesus’ ethical and moral teaching. The following Sundays (6th -8th Sundays) our Gospel continues to unfold the various teachings of the Sermon on the Mount [ 17-37; 38-48 & 6:24-34]. It involves the proclamation of the New Law. In this section we encounter some confronting and challenging demands on the part of Jesus.
Today’s Gospel [Matthew 5: 13-16] has Jesus’ challenge for us to be the light of the world and salt of the earth. The image of light is one which is fairly well known in our world. Light allows us to see and distinguish things around us. It allows us to not stumble over objects and makes it easy for us to move around without hindrance. Jesus’ use of this analogy would have been even more startling in his time when electricity and electric lighting was unheard of; when there were no street lights. So one could imagine the way in which the darkness of the night would have been overwhelming and how the presence of a single candle would be enough to illuminate a whole room.
The closest we could come to appreciate this concept would be our experience of a sudden blackout at night. At the level of morality and Christian ethics, then for us to be ‘light to the world’ means firstly that we need to live by the light of Christ and his teaching. We need to think and act according to the mind of Christ and to allow our lives to expose the elements of sinfulness around us – pride, envy, meanness, injustice, indifference or anything that blinds us from the Gospel truth. In many ways our being the light of the world means that we put into practice the challenges we hear from Isaiah [58:7-10]. We need to share our resources with the needy; give shelter to the homeless; clothe those who are naked; and not turn from our own kin. In doing this, Isaiah states ‘our light will rise in the darkness.’ Our being salt of the earth challenges us to realise that our efforts to live in Jesus’ way will have an impact on others. Salt in the time of Jesus was used as a preservative for food. Without it most of the food would not last very long in Middle Eastern climate. Therefore, the comparison of salt with the Christian life means that our lives help preserve the elements of our Christian vocation. Salt is also a seasoning that gives taste and flavour to food. Jesus uses this as a means of allowing us to experience a ‘taste’ for God, and that our lives would add ‘flavour’ to the ordinary endeavours of life. It allows us to recognise that at times we may lose our ‘taste’ for God, but unlike salt, when having lost its flavour is thrown on the ground to be used as a means of traction, we are able to regain our vigour and energy to do what is right and just, through the grace of God and the Sacraments.
Perhaps we can take some time to recognise and acknowledge how we allow the light of Christ to shine in our lives and how we renew our taste for God. It is important for us to continue to be light to the world and salt of the earth, for in maintaining this we continue the presence and mission of Jesus in our world.
Fr Robert Bossini