February 5, 2023
Sister Therese O’Grady reflects on the scripture readings: Isaiah 58:7-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16
In the gospel for this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus calls us to be salt of the earth. This means for me to be awake, alive, alert to this call and what it means to be salt.
Joseph Donder in his comments on this passage says salt is useless, hopeless, inedible by itself and not good. Salt becomes useful when it is used, as Jesus indicates in the gospel, mixed up in other things.
However, Donder says we are NOT salt; we are salt of this earth. In the reading from Isaiah, he recommends “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then light will rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom will become for like midday.”
We could relate this to our contemporary call to care of the earth by Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si’. As a prayer, the Pope prays “Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as sisters and brothers, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.”
So why salt? You are the salt of the earth!
In the Old Testament, salt was used to ratify a covenant for its preservative value. In the book of Numbers (18:19) Yahweh tells the people, “I give you all these holy things and to your sons and daughters by perpetual ordinance.” This is a covenant of salt forever before Yahweh for you and your descendants after you. This was meant to be an everlasting covenant. Salt ratified this promise of Yahweh. It is an indissoluble covenant.
A former ritual in Baptism was to put a pinch of salt on the tongue of the one being baptized. This was an everlasting covenant with God.
In the book of Leviticus (2:13) “You must salt every oblation that you offer, and you must never fail to put on your oblation the salt of the covenant.”
What the prophet Isaiah and Pope Francis call us to is relevant in 2023. We are salt of the earth mixed in with other salty dedicated, committed Christians from the 1st century to our time in an everlasting covenant. And also, the gospel says, if the salt goes flat, it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Jesus also says to us, “You are the light of the world!” Shine in the house for everyone to see. Shine in the sight of all!
However, in the Gospel of John (8:12) Jesus says he is the light of the world! And anyone who follows him will not be walking in the dark–they will have the light of life–and walking in that light means to love as Jesus loves.
So, we should be the salt, but not apart. We should be the light, but not on our own. It is that salt and that light that you can find – all over this world—in people changed by Jesus’ Spirit.
Praying and Preaching the Sunday Gospel. Joseph G. Donders. Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY 1988.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. Harper & Row c 1988.