Being Salt and Light of the World for God’s Glory
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week 5-A, 05 February 2017
Isaiah 58:7-10//1Corinthians 2:1-5//Matthew 5:13-16
By Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Question: What is the eleventh commandment?
Answer: Thou shall not eat salt… because it is asin.
If that tickled your bone and your brain, try watching Jackie Chan’s “Kung-Fu Yoga.” It is not as good as Chan’s other movies but very amusing as the Hong Kong star tried something so different by making a Chinese “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with a Bollywood twist at the end! At first I thought maybe Jackie Chan could no longer do his usual stunts that he just danced with his Indian co-stars at the end of the movie; but, in combining Chinese and Indian themes in one movie (hence, the title “Kung-Fu Yoga”), the Hong Kong superstar stressed the importance of the spiritual realms of life over material things like preserving the arts and most of all, keeping Buddhism’s lessons alive in the two countries considered as cradles of civilization. Chan plays the role of a renowned archaeologist helping India find some long lost treasures that turned out to be the teachings of Buddha and other Hindu sages. He explained to a young Indian treasure hunter who had kidnapped him to find the treasures that true wealth is not material things but “immaterial” or spiritual ones.
This is what Jesus Christ is telling today as He continues with the introduction to His Sermon on the Mount. Indeed, we are living in a much changed world these days with so much emphasis on material things that like in “Kung-Fu Yoga,” many people are disappointed or simply could not accept the Lord’s teaching on true blessedness, the Beatitudes. As we have reflected last Sunday, the Beatitudes show us a portrait of Jesus Christ whom we must emulate. And there lies the challenge and difficulty of the Beatitudes, of following Jesus Who goes against the ways of the world that glorifies money, power, and fame. It is indeed very difficult to be poor in spirit, to be a peace-maker, to be merciful, meek and humble in the midst of persecutions. But that is the real way in making a difference in this world when we learn to give our very selves in love and service for others as Jesus declares this Sunday, “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.”(Mt.5:13,14)
Notice the beautiful transition from last week’s last Beatitude, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me”into “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” (Mt.5:11,13,14)
Jesus is uplifting us today for all our love and sacrifices! Every time we give ourselves in love and service, whenever we choose to do what is right and just, when we would rather be merciful and peaceful, we make more impact in the world like the salt that makes food taste better. Most of all, salt purifies and preserves food that in ancient times, it denotes life so that the word “salary” or wage is from the Latin root of salt, salarium. Moreover, salt points to eternal life too because of its preservative quality and durability that fights corruption. It is a fact that the famed bamboo organ of Las Pinas had stood the test of time due to the salt treatment of the bamboo pipes devised by the Spanish friars who built it long ago. In a sense, salt fights corruption that it was so useful long before refrigeration came. And of all the forms of corruption, the most dreaded is death; hence, in ancient time people who dined together eat salt during their meal to signify their bond and friendship beyond this life. St. Luke picked up this concept when he narrated in chapter one of his Book of Acts of the Apostles how Jesus appeared, spoke and shared meal with the Apostles for 40 days before ascending into heaven. In the original Greek, St. Luke used the word “synalizomenos” for sharing meal that literally means “eating salt with them.” (cf. Ratzinger, “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week” pp. 270-271) To eat salt with others signifies eternity. Every good deed we perform in this life not only leaves an impact here but leads us into heaven too. And that’s truly the way to make a difference by propelling ourselves onto eternity!
When we imitate Jesus Christ in His blessedness as expressed in the Beatitudes, we also bring light that dispels the darkness enveloping the world today. As Christians, we are tasked to be the light of the world by “sharing bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and homeless, and clothing those naked” (cf. Is.58:7). So you see, the Beatitudes are not meant to make life burdensome for us because all those sacrifices and sufferings we bear are all in the name of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. We do good not to punish ourselves but because it is in the loving gift of self for others we truly become free as well as set others free from sin and gloom. This is the whole meaning of the crucified Christ preached by St. Paul to the Corinthians last week. Being blessed, being salt of the earth and light of world means being on the cross with Jesus Christ as He had expressed early on last Sunday. Notice that for salt and light to be effective, they both have to get lost from themselves too like us in Jesus. For salt to give taste, it must be dissolved; for light to dispel darkness, it must be diffused. In doing so, we fulfill the words of Jesus Christ: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt.5:16)
We are called salt of the earth and light of the world not for our own sake. Anyone truly wishing to serve must forget one’s self and like St. Paul, comes “in weakness and fear and much trembling” relying more on the “power of God” (1Cor.2:3,5) than his/her own wisdom and abilities. See how people who try so hard to make an impact in the world relying on their own abilities, using powers and prowess with much fanfare or braggadocio. Yes, they do get noticed for some time but they eventually fizzle out and worst, fall into shame and oblivion. Those who work in silence and obscurity are the ones who affect much in this world because their good deeds and kindness continue through others for they are simply doing the work of God. Power that truly transforms people and nations come only from God through human weakness and frailty. “Lord Jesus, teach us to be like the salt of the earth by being dissolved in our pride and be like the light of the world by diffused from our self-centeredness. Amen.” A blessed week! (Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan)