5th Sunday "A"
Is 58,7-10 -- 1 Co 2,1-5 -- Mt 5,1.13-16
H O M I L Y
Paul was one of the great minds on his time. He had been trained by the best teachers of Israel; he had learned all that could be learned of the Wisdom of Israel as well as of the Wisdom of the Greek. When he came to Athens, to preach the good News, he thought that the best way to be accepted was to try to meet those people of the Agora at their own level, using his knowledge of their philosophers and their poets. It did not work at all. Paul learned his lesson and changed his method. When he came to Corinth, a much more popular city with very decadent moral behavior, and with few intellectuals, Paul came as a poor, bearing in his flesh the cross of Christ. And it worked. Some years later he wrote to them the text we heard a few minutes ago: "When I came to you I did not come proclaiming God's testimony with any particular eloquence or 'wisdom'. No, I determined that while I was with you I would speak of nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. When I was with you it was in weakness and fear, and with much trepidation. My message and my preaching had none of the persuasive force of 'wise' argumentation, but the convincing power of the Spirit".
In other words Paul did not come to Corinth as a teacher of wisdom but as someone bearing witness -- in his life -- to the cross of Christ and to his Resurrection. And therefore this text is a good commentary of our Gospel. When Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world he is not inviting us to be self-complacent, priding ourselves with the conviction of being the chosen ones; he is, on the contrary, giving us a mission, and quite a demanding one. He is inviting us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world not so much by our preaching of wisdom but by our witnessing.
Perhaps we like too much the idea of being the light of the world, so that people can look at us and admire us! So, let us pay a little more attention to the other figure used by Jesus, that of the salt! There are at least two things that we can note about the salt: The first one is that very little salt is needed in food. A little bit of it gives a good taste to food. Too much of it destroys it. And it is to that element, as well as to the yeast in the dough that Jesus compares the Reign of God. For the Church, for Christians in general to be a small, humble, presence in the life of the whole humanity is the normal situation. All the big, flashy, pompous, noisy demonstration of the presence of the Church as a powerful and influential reality has little to do with this Gospel. And, precisely, the second thing about salt is that it humbly dissolves into the rest of the food and does its work in an imperceptible way. Likewise does the Reign of God works in the dough of humankind. Dom Christian de Chergé, of the monastery of Tibhirine, wanted to be a grain of salt in the soil and the people of Algeria. His desiere was heard.
The reading from Isaiah is perhaps the best explanation of what it means to be the light of the world, or the salt of the earth. It is taken from a context where the prophet reacts against a form of worship that would be cut away from the practice of charity and justice. And he concludes: "Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. THEN your light shall break forth like the dawn..." And a bit further in the text he says: "If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted: THEN light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday". This is how Christians are expected to be the light of the world, rather than in pompous processions, conventions, or demonstrations of the like.
We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world by translating in our daily life with the people around us Jesus' message of love. The Bread of life that we are going to receive at the table of the Lord is what gives us the capacity and the strength to be faithful to that mission.