Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A Feb 9, 2020
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth.” What does Jesus mean?
Perhaps if you are on a low sodium diet you don’t want to be the salt of the earth. But that is what Jesus calls us to.
You are the salt of the earth. Salt in the ancient world was important, indeed essential. It was traded like gold or silver. It was necessary for life and for preserving food. The Latin word for salt is “sal”, and we get our English word “salary” from the Latin word for salt, because salt was used to pay soldiers. And if the soldier did his job then he was “worth his salt.”
Are we, as Christ’s disciples, worth our salt?
Jesus also tells us that we, both individually and as a group, a church, are the light of the world. How do we light up the world? Both the world immediately around us, and the world as a whole?
Well, one very good way that we can be salt of the earth, bring life and flavor and zest to the earth, and be the light of the world, bringing clarity and lifting spirits, is by living out the virtue of HOPE.
Hope adds zest to life. Hope lights up the community we inhabit. But hope is in rather short supply in our world right now.
All around us, in alcohol addition, in drug addiction, in mindless violence, in despair and anguish and a profound deep sense of dread, we can see a lack of hope. We can feel the hopelessness of so much of our society that turns to drugs, to violence, to mindless hooking up, to depression and even to despair. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of young people aged 10 - 34 in this country.
The world needs hope. That is what Jesus gives as salt and light to a drab, dark, hopeless world. HOPE.
Hope is not the same as optimism. Optimism is an assessment that things will be getting better. But I think the arguments in favor of such an assessment, that by themselves things are going to be getting better, is, well, way too optimistic.
Hope differs from optimism in that hope is not based on signals that things are getting better, that everything is going to be OK, that it is not as bad as it looks, and so on, but rather HOPE looks beyond all that to an ultimate cause for believing in the triumph of good.
We Christians call that ultimate reason for believing in the triumph of good, “Easter.” When Jesus had been falsely accused, unjustly condemned, brutally tortured, horribly executed by a miserable death on a cross, then dumped in the ground and sealed with a huge stone, and all human resources and remedies had come up empty, hope still did not fail. Because God had solutions we could not even imagine.
That is the kind of HOPE we need to be salt of the earth, to be the light of the world. This hope is not based on any scientific achievement, not on any military victory, not on ask academic breakthrough, not on any financial or material success, not on any personal accomplishment, not on any human success, but rather totally on the fidelity of God. God is faithful. And the Risen Lord is the proof of the fidelity of God. //
St. Paul, in our second reading today states: “my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
Human wisdom is ultimately powerless in the face of death. But we are called to be salt for the earth, to be the light of the world. Because we have faith in a God who is stronger than death, and loves each of us so deeply and tenderly He gave His only Son so that we might be God’s children forever.
That is a great source of HOPE.