The challenge to be salt of the earth and light of the world
Fifth Sunday of Year A (Matt 5:13-15)
Pro-life Sunday, January 15, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
TO be “a light to the nations” was an essential aspect of the mission of the Messiah. (See Is 42:6 and 49:6.) He came in Jesus Christ as “the real light which enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). His thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions were such that, in all truth, he could claim: “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12 and 9:5).
We understand and gratefully accept all this. But when we hear Jesus himself say to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world,” we know that he was not stating a fact, for he knew that the behavior of his disciples was far from being exemplary. Rather, Jesus was throwing a challenge at them. He was giving them a mission. He was describing what all his disciples – in all times and places—should strive to become.
St. Paul understood this perfectly. That is why he reminded his converts that, since they were “children of light and of the day,” they should behave accordingly. (See 1 Thes 5:5.12-22.)
The mission entrusted by Jesus to his disciples and the exhortation of St. Paul are as valid today as they were two thousand years ago. If we want to be real disciples of Christ, “the Light of the world,” our consciences have to be clear and transparent; our behavior must have the refulgence of love, honesty, purity, respect, sincerity . . . . Our life then will become bright and meaningful, for the simple reason that we will be becoming ever more Christ-like.
Then even other people’s lives will take on meaning and brightness, too, because our authentic Christian life will have become an inspiration for all those who live in a world darkened by sin in its many forms.
Becoming the light of the world is a challenge worth accepting and living up to. If we persevere in this effort, at the end of our life, the Lord himself will tell us in all truth: “You have done your best to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world!” That will be a wonderful synthesis of a life well-spent.
The challenge to be (become) “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” is especially timely and relevant during this “Year of the Parish.” This invitation/challenge is addressed to all the baptized and not just the members of the clergy and the religious. The Second Vatican Council Decree “Apostolicam Actuositatem” (On the Apostolate of the Laity) has reminded all believers about this very important truth.
The Gospel foundation and practical implications of this truth were discussed during the Synod of Bishops held on 1-30 October 1987, and were masterfully presented by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation “Christifideles Laici” (The Lay Faithful).
The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) picked up the Pope’s appeal to have the laity fully involved in the life and mission of the Church and listed the lay faithful as the first “workers of renewal.” (See Acts & Decrees of PCP II, pp. 139-154.)
Since then, much has been done by bishops and priests to enable the laity to get a better appreciation of their role in the universal Church, in general and in the local Church, in particular. They have also done much to empower them to be more involved in the life of the parish, as well as in promoting Christian values in society. But much more still remains to be done. The observance of the “Year of the Parish” is a golden opportunity to do just that.