As Jesus continues His teaching we continue to meditate on what it means to live our lives as children of the Kingdom of God. Jesus continues to call us by new names; in doing so, He tells us how He sees us but also creates in us that vision. By calling us “Salt of the earth” and “Light of the world” He makes us so. But what does it mean?
I am amazed at how many references are in our languages about salt. One in particular seems to be meaning: “salary,” comes from the Latin, salarium, referring to the allotted amount of salt a roman soldier would get as remuneration for his services to the Empire. By being called salt, Jesus it pointing out how valued we are – we are worth someone’s salary.
Salt has so many functions: preserves, disinfects, but most of all, although not considered food itself, it touches and changes every food it reaches. It allows all other ingredients to “come alive” and bring forth their own flavor. By being called salt, Jesus is telling us that we have a particular function in the world: to preserve it from going bad, cleaning up their wound and making sure they don’t become infected but most of all we called to “flavor” everything we do, every conversation and relationship we have with the extra flavor of God’s Love. What a mission! But also, what a trust has God in us.
At the time of Jesus Light and Darkness were considered “things,” one pushing the other away. As St John of the Cross said, we are like stained glass windows: allowing the light inside to shine forth. But, what do people outside see when they look at our windows?
The point of these two parables, I believe, is found not in the opening statements. Jesus points to something that we, as humans, find very annoying: when we get something that doesn’t work properly, we get annoyed and tend to put the object away as it is considered useless. Salt and Light have specific functions; if they lose the ability of doing what they are supposed to do, they are useless. Jesus tells us that useless salt can be thrown away. Is that what we want Him to do with us?
How can salt and light lose their function? Salt is a sodium chloride – common salt – is a stable compound, a crystal that does not decay. How can it lose its flavor? By being mixed up with impurities. Technically salt doesn’t lose its flavor but looses the ability of transferring the flavor because the impurities keep it from being active.
If the window is dirty, light does’t go through properly and changes its brightness.
The Word today also suggests that we ought to take away the impurities and injustices that life throws at us. When we do that and behave as people of the beatitudes we will be able to be fully active in the world and experience
God’s presence in us. We can start by looking around us; what is missing in our family? attention? let’s put it there by making sure that each member of our family gets the attention and supports we want to have. What about our workplaces? all around us? in the street, where we shop? How about in our churches? We can take the first step and by doing so, our little light will shine a bit brighter and people (and we, too) can start experiencing the flavor of the Kingdom.
Jesus is calling us to something beautiful and is transforming us into what the World needs now more than ever. Are we ready to take up this challenge?