By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 5:11-16
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus first calls his disciples the salt of the earth, and then the light of the world. First salt, then light. Salt has several purposes. We most commonly know it as a flavor enhancer. A little bit can enliven our food. Salt can also be used as a preservative. Salting meat helps prevent decay. Finally, salt can be destructive. Salting earth makes it difficult for future crops to grow in that soil.
As followers of Jesus, there is much that we are called to do as the salt of the earth. We are to draw out the subtler meanings of the gospel to entice the tastebuds of the listener’s heart. We are also to preserve. Only God can save his Church, but we can help prevent it from going bad in some area. Finally, we can leave off the restraint we might show when adding just a pinch of salt to open up Scripture or spiritual truth for others, and we can pour all that we have into salting the earth. Where evil is used to taking root, Christians can salt the soil with holy lives, prayer, and virtuous acts — with all that they have — to keep it from growing.
The work of the salt is on the ground, attending to earthy tasks: eating, preserving, and removing evil things from soil. Let us not be embarrassed and shy away from this work. Some may wish to skip the humble work of salt and jump directly to the more glamorous work of the light, but the words of Jesus suggest that it is actually when we are united as salt, doing what the salt does, that we are lifted up as light. If we find our churches empty and we’re wondering how we’re going to keep the lights on, we must ask ourselves, are we first doing our work as salt?
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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