Salt Dissolves, Light Burns
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mt 5:13-16
February 05, 2017
By Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Two terrorists were on a mission to plant explosive device. One of them had the bomb in his lap. He told the driver, “Drive a little faster! I think the bomb may go off any minute!” But the driver calmly assured him, “Relax! Don’t worry. We still have another bomb in the back seat.”
Life in this modern world has trained us to have certain backups: spare tire in the boot, extra cash in our wallet, hard disk backup for our computer, and a reserve army in the military. I had once a parishioner who had on his altar at home the image of the Santo Niño, with the image of Buddha beside it. When asked about it, his quick reply was, “Well, just in case!”
Having a backup in matters of faith reveals a weak faith and a seriously flawed view of God. If there is a backup “god”, then God is not regarded anymore as the Absolute Being. This is relativism. Then we begin to think that there are no absolute truths and no moral absolutes as well – there are no such things as intrinsically evil.
Anything is good or evil depending on one’s personal interpretation and subjective judgment. There is a famous song entitled “You Light Up My Life”. It is a nice song, but the words betray a dangerous idea. In one part of the song, it says, “It can’t be wrong ‘cause it feels so good!” Sadly, there are now many Christians who have fallen into what Pope Benedict XVI called “the dictatorship of relativism.”
When Pope Paul VI came up with the encyclical Humanae Vitae pointing out the immorality of contraception, groups of theologians publicly refused to accept it. The result is utterly devastating. Such an open rejection of the teaching authority of the Pope by the so-called “Church experts” themselves opened the floodgates of dissent from the Catholic lay people. We now see more people who call themselves Christian or Catholic, but at the same time espouse and support ideas and principles that run counter to the Christian faith and morals.
Just to give you some hard facts in the US alone: In 1955, 30% of Catholic wives aged 18 to 39 admitted to using contraception. In 1970, this jumped to 68% (from “Catholics and Contraception: An American History” by Leslie Woodcock). Lately, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 97% of American Catholic women have used contraception.
In 1960, 2.3% of babies were born out of wedlock. By 1992, this grew to 22.6% (Prosperous Paupers and Other Population Problems, Eberstadt). In 2005, 37% of babies were born out of wedlock (Associated Press). No wonder Church marriages are becoming rare nowadays. For those born between 1933 and 1943, 83% of all the men and 93% of all the women were virgins when they married. Now, 90% of Catholic couples coming to the priest for marriage preparation are already in a sexual relationship (“Contraception, Why Not?” by Janet Smith, 2005). Moral relativism, indeed, has already taken its hold on many of our Catholic brethren.
In the face of this sad truth the Gospel this Sunday comes as a strong reminder of our mission as Christians: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” Salt should never lose its taste. The light should shine bright. These are absolutes. Salt that loses its taste is no salt at all. Light that does not shine is no light at all.
The same is true with every Christian: “You are the salt of the earth!” Nowadays, we tend to belittle the value of salt because it is so cheap. But back in olden times, salt is a precious commodity. That is why the word “salary” comes from the word “sal” or salt. The Latin word “salarium” originally meant a Roman soldier’s allowance to buy salt. It serves both as flavoring to food as well as preservative. True Christians give deep meaning and joy to life in society. They also provide the right values that preserve it from the corruption and decay of sin and evil. They are truly valuable for the survival and flourishing of human society.
“You are the light of the world!” In darkness, not only are we unable to do the things we need to do, but we also are in danger of physical harm. Darkness means trouble and death; light means life and salvation. True Christians provide society with the splendor of truth and good example, driving away the darkness of sin and evil. The prophet Isaiah exhorts: “Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed” (Is 58: 7 – 10). The Psalmist exhorts us, therefore, to serve as beacon of salvation for the people: “Make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday” (Ps 37: 6).
But being salt and light is not easy. It is a challenge to self-sacrificing love. The salt cannot give its flavor unless it dissolves itself in the food. A candle cannot give light unless it burns itself. The Lord said that: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies. It remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” In other words, unless we learn to die to our self, we cannot give flavor and light. As long as we still give priority to our selfish interests and inclinations, we will be tasteless salt and hidden lights.
In a small town, a man always stopped by a clock shop window every morning to set his watch. One day, the shop owner asked this man, “Why do you stop here every morning and set your watch?” The man replied, “I am the sacristan of the parish, and I am in charge of ringing the church bell every day. I stop here every morning to make sure I have the exact time.” The shop owner said, “That’s funny, because I set my clock every day when you ring the bell at noon” (Adapted from F. Mihalic).
Salt and light are supposed to make a difference in the world in order to become agents of change and renewal. They become ineffective when, succumbing to the forces of relativism, they simply imitate their surroundings. To become effective salt and light, Christians have to be firmly grounded on the Ultimate Absolute: God, the true source of goodness and brightness. Only then do we become faithful and living reflections of God in this world.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road
Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422