The gospel passage on this Sunday is situated in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. It is here that Jesus is teaching His disciples who were just commoners and that is probably why He had to make His teachings as easy as possible to understand. In this teaching, Jesus uses salt and light, two elements that every person could relate with, to speak about the role of anyone who has chosen to follow His path and the life that He is offering.
Both salt and light are things that we use every day for various purposes. In the ancient biblical world, salt was a precious commodity. Very much like our times, it gave flavour and zest to food; it also served as an important preservative. The disciples understood this but then Jesus speaks about salt becoming tasteless and that is something that is difficult for us to comprehend today. To understand, we need to know the cultural context of Jesus. During the time of Jesus, salt was made by collecting the deposits left by the Dead Sea as it dried. However, when this salt was exposed to some elements, there are times where these deposits could break apart and lose its flavour. In other words, if not taken care of properly, it can lose its usefulness.
Then Jesus goes on to tell His disciples that ‘You are the light of the world’ and that no one lights a lamp and then covers it. If you do, it loses its purposefulness. It must shine so that all can benefit from its brightness. Therefore, when Jesus uses the analogy of salt and light, they understood very well what Jesus meant.
However, two thousand years later as we listen to it today, we need to ask ourselves what is it that Jesus is saying to us when we hear these words, “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world”. The salt that we get from the supermarkets and use never loses its saltiness and very seldom do we light lamps because now we can get light at the flick of a switch.
Jesus is not saying that we should become the salt and the light but the way it is worded in the gospel, it is an imperative…. You are the salt; you are the light. It simply means that we are already the salt and light of the world by virtue of God calling us to be His disciples. However, herein lies the teaching for us… take care not to lose sight of this mission that God has given us.
We live in a world that has many distractions that can easily lead us away from the path of God. Jesus does not call us to a life of isolation but in the midst of these distractions, He calls us to make a difference. He calls for conviction and dedication and not mediocrity or a lukewarm attitude. In one of his daily homilies, Pope Francis reminded the Church that there is always the temptation to “be like everybody else”. In other words, to blend in and not be noticed for fear of being ridiculed. If we succumb to this temptation, which could be attractive to some, the disciple loses his/her personal identity and faith… metaphorically speaking, we lose our saltiness; the light of Christ that is within us is under a bowl.
Christian discipleship is about making a difference: to give the “flavour” of Jesus to the world and to be the “light” that draws others to know Christ. Most often these can be done even without the use of words. In the words of St Francis of Assisi to his friars, “go proclaim the gospel (good news); if necessary use words”. May we go forth to be the salt and light of the world just as Jesus intended when He called us. Amen.