Homily for Sunday, 9 February 2013
5th Sunday: Is 58:7-10. 1 Cor 2:1-5. Mt 5:13-16.
This Sunday, Jesus continues his sermon on the mount.
The call to be light in a dark world is clear, but to be salt? A lack of saltiness is actually one of the characteristics of the Red Sea that had to be crossed on the journey to the promised land, but I don't think that that's relevant in the Gospel of today. Salt makes food more tasty and I suppose that Christ is asking us to help make life more enjoyable for everyone. I just wish I could tell more jokes! Salt is also purifying - bugs don't live in salty water. At get-togethers we sing and tell jokes and try to spread friendship (to make life tasty!), but good Christianity should also be a voice in the world that challenges and stimulates people to kill the bugs of selfishness and sin. It's a voice plus a testimony (you can't have one without the other) and it may not please our 'taste-buds' at first (it led Jesus to Calvary and 'the wine' there was sour) but the fruit thereafter is marvelous.
The call is to purify this world. It isn't a question just of what I've done wrong but also of what good I've failed to do. Are we really exercising ourselves in changing anybody or are we just 'pulling the chain' along with everybody? - along with the adds on TV and the folks in the pub? There's a lot of darkness in the world, so let's let the light shine - let's not put the candle of our Christianity under the table.
But 'sheltering the homeless' (as Isaiah asks today) also means showing them their real unchanging 'home' and it was in order to lead us there that Christ gave his 'flesh and blood'. And He keeps longing to do it. He needs you and I through whom to shine now. So we say "yes" as we take communion! Let's seek for our salt to be well seasoned. He'll do it.
The saints are a good bunch to follow! They don't follow the ways of the world, but I think it's good to be unconventional! Many descriptions of the Saints are written in praise of their suffering or their martyrdom, but those problems were imposed on them, as opposed to being sought by them like in some kind of psychiatric masochism, or some mistaken religiosity. After all, our lives are a gift from God, so we should use them to the best extent that we can. An imposed martyrdom can give good testimony and inspire faith, and so end up bearing a lot of fruit, but of course, the death I would like is to die to my own selfishness. Jesus himself died that way, and said that if we're attatched to him we'll also bear fruit, but separated from him, we won't (Jn 15).
Unfortunately, many reject the Church because of such things as the Inquisition in the middle ages. Much harm was done, but that shouldn't make us close the door. As a small example, think of St Peter of Verona in the 13th century. He was a Dominican martyred trying to carry out the Inquisition with love. One of his murderers later changed his opinion and actually himself voluntarily became a Dominican!
Spreading faith in the modern 'intellectual' world may seem challenging but St Paul puts it well today: "I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and 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' (1 Cor 2:3-5). Perhaps Paul demonstrated that power by some kind of miracles, but we can all follow - we can demonstrate true, generous, sincere love in this selfish world. That's a miracle! Let's get our salt seasoned and our light to shine!