Feb 8, 2014

5th Sunday: Be a "showoff"

(Tissot: Sermon on the Mount)
"You are the salt of the earth . . . the light of the world"

Word for Sunday: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/020914.cfm

Is 58: 7-10
1 Cor 2: 1-5
Mt 5: 13-16

No one loves a “showoff” or a “name dropper,” unless you happen to be a Christian.  So it seems, may be the message of our readings this Sunday.  But we must explain.
Jesus uses two images which clearly tell us that his disciples must not be hidden or silent.  They must be seen by others.  They must enhance a distinctive taste and show off a shining light. We must be salt and light for others.  And the name we drop is not our own but that of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world . . .’” In our culture today we mostly think of salt as a taste enhancer for food.  We know that our bodies need a certain amount of salt but we must also be conscious of such things as blood pressure which seems to be affected by too much salt in our food.  Yet, I’m one who loves sea salt and vinegar potato chips.  As tempting as it is, eating a whole bag at once may just be a little too much! So our concern for salt these days is for taste and health.   
However, in ancient times salt was like gold.  It was used to purify, to season, to preserve, especially in the days before our now common methods of refrigeration. Salt was expensive, guarded carefully, and taxed heavily.  A kind of “salt tax” was commonly understood.

If that be so, our Lord’s example has even greater weight. As missionary disciples as Jesus speaks and as our Holy Father Pope Francis reiterates, is like salt to give a distinctive difference in the world around us.  The ultimate price paid is that of death and resurrection. Food without salt is bland – green beans and broccoli don’t cut it without some help from a bit of flavor enhancer (salt) – and we too are called to give the culture around us a distinctive flavor.   
The same is true with Jesus’ similar image of light. Once the light shines like a city on a hill or a lamp in the home, it fulfills its purpose.  To hide that light is to deny its very existence and purpose. So, we Christians, like light, are meant to be seen.  It’s all right to show off for others, if our display leads others to Christ: “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Yet, what do others need to see?  Us praying in Church? Preaching on the street corner? Engaging in a debate of apologetics? While all this certainly has value, our first reading from Isaiah makes clear what pleases the Lord:
“Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked . . . do not turn your back on your own . . .” Later in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25: 31 – 46, Jesus separates sheep from the goats at the last judgment and reiterates the same: “. . . you gave me food . . . you gave me drink . . .you welcomed me . . . you clothed me . . . you comforted me. . . you came to visit me . . . as often as you did it for one of my least ones, you did it for me . . .”

As we minister to others in basic, fundamental ways with love, after the example of Jesus himself, we are salt and light.  We offer a distinctive alternative to the self-absorbed, subjectively moral, “throw away culture” (Pope Francis) in which we live.  As we do so, we show off the good works that make a difference and tell the world that Catholic Christians can make a distinctive difference; that the good news of Jesus is an invitation to all.
Just imagine how the world would taste and how much light would shine if we all took seriously the call to maximum visibility in the world.  In the celebration of our Eucharist, we gather not to impress one another by how good, generous, kind, and humble we are. But to empower one another in the name of Jesus and then to go out and: “Glorify the Lord by our lives.” 

So, go ahead and show off this week and name drop the one name above all others, Jesus Christ.
Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,
that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be defended always by your protection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

(Collect of Mass)