On the Gospel of Matthew 5:13-16
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
It is a compliment to say of someone that they are the ‘salt of the earth’. We usually mean by this that someone is, down to earth, generous and good-humoured. But what did Jesus mean by it?
For Jesus, no doubt, a person who is the salt of the earth – the good Christian – has all these positive qualities, but there is also the element of perseverance in Our Lord’s words. This theme of perseverance, in the life of the Christian, is vividly expressed in St Paul when we read: “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one”, (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Salt in Jesus’ time was used to keep food fresh and vibrant; and to use the Pauline analogy, the athlete must keep fresh and fit to compete in his or her sport. Today athletes have all the help they need to achieve and maintain this level of fitness: with personal trainers, physiologists, dieticians, and ultra modern gyms. They keep themselves fresh and fit, in the physical way, to win an Olympic medal or a GAA trophy; but the Christian is called to remain fresh and fit in the spiritual way – to remain salty – to win for him or herself the imperishable crown of happiness! A happiness tasted in this life, but fulfilled in the next.
But it appears that we don’t, in our Christian life, have at our disposal, these trainers, sport physiologists, dieticians, and ultra modern gyms; or do we?
Our trainer is the Lord himself, and in our personal relationship with him, when we talk to him first thing in the morning and last thing at night, we get our training, our guidance, in how we may better live out our Christian lives. Our sport physiologist, who encourages us to get up and do another lap when we are exhausted from the stress and strain of life; who tells us that it is going to be ok and that we can move on; he is our confessor, that priest that we meet regularly in the confessional box. Our dieticians are the saints who encourage us to not indulge too much in what the world offers. For example, TV, food, drink, music, etc.. but to take things in moderation. And finally, and most importantly, our gym, our training centre, where we can build up new strength to live out the Christian life. This is our local Church and most importantly the freshness and vibrancy we receive here in the Holy Eucharist. No modern gym can ever offer this strength!
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
– Matthew 5:13-16