Christ the King Catholic Church
One of the reasons why Jesus was such a powerful teacher and preacher was that he talked to people in ways in which they could understand. He used everyday language to talk about God, the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, the meaning of life and, as is the case today, to talk about what it means to be a disciple. In the passage of Matthew's Gospel just before today's Gospel, Jesus had proposed the beatitudes as the way of life for those who seek to be his disciples. "Blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers... "
In his teaching and his preaching Jesus used images that children could understand, but images that are so rich that theologians have been studying them for centuries. We see a perfect example of this in today's Gospel. Jesus talks about 'salt' and 'light' and he applies them to his disciples -to all ofus.
I remember visiting a parishioner in the hospital not too long ago as he was regaining his health after a long illness and his appetite was finally returning. He had been eagerly anticipating his first meal after days on a liquid diet. I arrived just as had begun eating that first meal. Unfortunately, as is often the case, he had been placed on a low sodium diet and he had little good to say about the food.
Food without salt tastes flat. Not only does salt give food flavor, but just a tiny bit makes a big difference.
Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth. We are supposed to make a difference for good in the world. So much for those who argue that faith is a private matter that belongs in the sacristy of the church. Jesus is telling us that our faith should flavor life on Wall Street and Market Street, as well as on Kessler Boulevard, Norwaldo Avenue and Kingsley Drive. It should influence our conversation around the water cooler at work and in the locker room at school. If we are to be salt for the earth, we are to take the values of the Gospel with us wherever we go. We don't keep a saltshaker locked up in the pantry. We put it on the table in easy reach of everyone. Jesus tells us, that his disciples, we are not to hide our faith, but to live it publicly, making a difference for good.
The late Pope Saint John Paul II gave the world a beautiful example of this in 1981. May 13th of that year shots rang out in Saint Peter's Square as the Pope was conducting the weekly General Audience. Four bullets struck the Pope. The Pope was rushed to the hospital and as soon as he could speak, he asked people to pray for the would-be-assassin and said that he had forgiven him. In 1983 the Pope met with the man in prison and the photos of that visit went around the world.
In a world in which mercy and forgiveness are often times in short supply, Pope Saint John Paul II was salt for the earth.
This past Thursday the Annual National Prayer Breakfast was held in Washington
D.C. We all know that it followed what has been a contentious period in our nation's political life. The breakfast would have been a wonderful opportunity for two very public figures to offer words of reconciliation and be salt for the earth. Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity. Instead of faith and prayer being used to bring people together, faith was used as a weapon. We see what happens when salt goes flat.
We know that the society in which we live has become increasingly secularized. The popular culture in which we live has become increasingly indifferent to Christianity and even hostile to Christianity. The number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has grown exponentially in the last decade, especially among young Americans. As people of faith, we understandably lament this, but we need to remember something else about salt. A little bit goes a long way. An itinerate preacher and a rag-tagged band of twelve apostles changed the face of the earth and altered the course of human history. It's not the quantity but the quality that matters. Pope Benedict XVI predicted that the Church of the future - and that future is now, would be smaller in number, but stronger in witness. Jesus never promised that the narrow road would be the popular one. Discipleship is the road less traveled. A few disciples can transform an environment. We are called to be those disciples who make a difference in our homes, our factories and our places of work, our schools, by living our faith out loud.
Jesus also used the powerful image of light to describe our discipleship. Disciples are like the moon. The moon has no light of its own. It merely reflects to the earth
the light it receives from the sun. Jesus is the light of the world and we, as disciples, are called to reflect that light. Our works should reflect that light. "Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."
Think of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Talk about reflecting the light that is Jesus! A tiny little nun through her unrelenting care of the dying on the streets of Calcutta became a beam of light that was seen around the world and inspired people on every continent. Believers and non-believers alike basked in that light and gave glory to God.
Pope Francis, through simple gestures of kindness, mercy and compassion, has touched and softened the hearts of humanity.
We have so many examples of people in our parish community who reflect the light of Jesus to the world around. I think of the members of our Saint Vincent de Paul Society who represent the heart of our parish to the poor in our midst. I think of our parishioners who serve at the Peace Meals offering comfort to others in time of grief. I think of the people who fill the food basket in the back of church every weekend by remembering others when they do their shopping for groceries. I think of all of those who support our outreach to the school children in Haiti through our Bois de Lance Project. I think of the small army of parishioners who take Holy Communion each week to the homebound and those in Nursing Homes. And the list goes on and on.
Jesus calls us, as his disciples, to be light for the world. He calls us to reflect his light to those around us and not hide that light under a bushel basket. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, we can only reflect Jesus to the world around us if we spend time with Jesus in prayer, in scripture reading, simply resting in his presence in the Blessed Sacrament and faithfully participating in the Eucharist each and every week.
Our light might not be a beam that shines around the world as that Mother Theresa and Pope Francis, but even a flashlight makes all the difference on a dark night.
Salt and light. Two images that Jesus uses to describe discipleship. Two images that a child can understand and two images so rich as to offer us food for thought throughout our lives.
There's no question about it. Jesus is a master teacher. The real question is, "What kind of students are we?"