19 Feb Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting this homily on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you, I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
YOU are the salt of the Earth! YOU are the light of the world! Powerful statements from Jesus today…YOU ARE!!!!! Not you will become. You are!!!!!
Jesus exhorts his disciples to live up to what God’s disciples were always meant to be: salt of the earth and light of the world. Salt preserves food from corruption; it also brings out the flavour of food and makes it more pleasant…and it disappears into the food; the disciple of Jesus should do the same among the people around him/her.
This gospel immediately follows the eight beatitudes. The Beatitudes illustrate the flavour of the salt we, as disciples of Christ, are called to be…The nature of the light we are to be to the world.
The disciple of Jesus Christ is humble; saddened by wrong, their own and others; gentle; stands up for what is right in the face of wrong; is merciful, forgiving; possesses a pure of heart; creates peace around and is reviled and persecuted on account of his faith in Christ. In living the Beatitudes, we, Jesus’ disciples, are salt of the earth, preserving goodness in the world, from the rot around it…Flavouring wherever we are, whatever we are doing with Christ. Shining His Light there.
However, the disciple who does not embody the beatitudes is like salt that loses its taste: he/she becomes no longer good for anything. The disciple who is not humble, is not saddened by wrong, is not gentle, does not stand up for what is right in the face of wrong, is not merciful nor forgiving, is not pure of heart, is not a peace maker and is not willing to suffer for his faith in Christ. This disciple is no longer good for anything… “except to be thrown out and trampled under foot” (Matthew 5:13) as the gospel so starkly states.
Disciples are to be light of the world. In the Jewish tradition Israel was to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 60:1-3; Baruch 4:2). Disciples of Jesus fulfill this role by living the Beatitudes in such a way that the world “may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
In the face of the many problems in our world – violence, materialism, poverty, moral relativism, the loss of the sacredness of human life through abortion and medical assistance in killing, distorted notions of sexuality in the plaque of pornography and contraception all which could be summed up in selfish individualism…In face of all of these evils…and many more…Jesus challenges us to ask, “What can I do to be God’s love in the world?” Disciples of Jesus’ vocation is to be Light to the world and the world will be impacted for better or for worse by the way we live our lives. When disciples of Jesus fail to live the Beatitudes, when we fail to be light, the world suffers. But when we imitate Christ’s love, mercy and generosity; the world will see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father.
A sobering thought that priests are sometimes challenged with by bishops and others…If your parish were to close tomorrow…would the community around you miss the Christian witness of your parishioners? Would the community around you miss the Light of Christ shining in their midst?
One of the Fathers of the Early Church, St. John Chrysostom, who was Archbishop of Constantinople at the end of the fourth century , invited his parishioners to ponder what the world would be like if the entire Christian community lived in imitation of Christ: He said: “Assuredly, there would be no non-believers, if we Christians took care to be what we ought to be; if we obeyed God’s precepts, if we bore injuries without retaliation, if when cursed we blessed, if we rendered good for evil. For no man is so savage a wild beast that he would not immediately run to the worship of true religion, if he saw all Christians acting as I have said.” [Homily 10, in Epist. 1 and Timothy. Cited n the Great Commentary of Cornelius A Lapide, trans. Thomas W. Mossman, London: Hohn Hodges, 1887), 210. ] If we Christians took care to be what we ought to be.
Muhatma Gandhi famously declared that “If it weren’t for Christians; I would be a Christian.” Could there be a more condemning comment? He was a practicing Hindu. Christianity very much intrigued him. In his reading of the Gospels, Gandhi was very impressed by this Jesus Christ whom Christians worshipped and followed. He wanted to know more about this Jesus that Christians referred to as “the Christ, the Messiah.”
One Sunday morning Gandhi decided that he would visit one of the Christian churches in Calcutta. Upon seeking entrance to the church sanctuary, he was stopped at the door by the ushers. He was told he was not welcome, nor would he be permitted to attend this particular church as it was for high-caste Indians and whites only. He was neither high caste, nor was he white. Because of the rejection, Mahatma Gandhi turned his back on Christianity.
“If it weren’t for Christians: I would be a Christian.” Wow! I have to ask…in light of his story could anyone say that about me? If yes, I need to repent and seek reconciliation with them… and with God. As a parish we have to ask if anyone could say that about us…If yes, we have to repent and seek reconciliation…As the salt of the earth…have we preserved Christ goodness and flavoured those we encounter with it…have we radiated Christ’s light to the world we encounter on a daily basis? We all need to ask…do I bring the Salt of Christ…The flavour of Christ… to conversations that are have become uncharitable or off colour? Do I shine the Light of Christ where injustice is occurring…Speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves…Gently correcting those who have gone astray…Foundationally…as individuals and as a parish we need to ask…Does the fact that we are dedicated followers of Jesus Christ influence every aspect of my home life, my family life, my work life and my life out in the world? Do those I interact with on a daily basis know I am a follower of Jesus Christ because of the way of act, think and speak?
I think here at St. Mary’s we are doing a fairly good job of it…of course we can always do better …But a fairly good job…especially to the poor…throughout the week the poor and many suffering from mental health come here just to escape the outside world…they come here through the week to sleep, to find a warm dry spot, to receive a kind word…you’ll notice in the bulletin that a group of parishioners have organized to open an afternoon drop in centre in the parish centre to meet some of the needs of the homeless and the desperately poor…needs that aren’t being met at other places in the downtown.…We run our Hot Meals Program every Saturday to help feed those who do not have enough to feed themselves…Our winter coat drive saw over 1,000 people pass through this winter. Are we being salt of the earth? Light to the world? I think so in these ways…we need to care…We need to care for those around us…
Our first reading from Isaiah chapter 58 lays out powerfully how we need to care…The nature of Salt of the Earth and Light of the World.
“Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.”
That last one is a kicker… do not turn your back on your own. Often our own family and friends …fellow parishioners…are where we are least salt of the earth and light of the world.
Isaiah goes on:
“If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”
Jesus powerfully states : YOU are the salt of the Earth! YOU are the light of the world! YOU ARE…it is a statement of fact. As followers of Jesus Christ this is who we are. We need to accept this…to accept to live out this new reality in our vocation as disciples of Jesus.
Salt does not exist for itself. It flavours something else…it preserves something else…disciples of Jesus don’t exist for themselves. Their lives are turned outward to others and to the world.
St. Ignatius of Loyola often ended his letters to Jesuits going to the missions with the expression ite, inflammate omnia—“go, set the world on fire.” It is another way of saying You are the salt of the earth. You are the Light of the world.
I would like end with a prayer which I think perfectly summarises what it truly means to be Salt of the Earth and Light of the World. The prayer was written by the recently canonized St. John Henry Newman. This Prayer was a favourite of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She recited it daily after Holy Communion and it continues to be prayed by her Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity. It is called Radiating Christ. I’m sure many of you know it.
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me,
and be so in me
that every soul I come in contact with
may feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me,
but only Jesus!
Stay with me
and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
so, to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You;
none of it will be mine.
It will be you,
shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best,
by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching,
not by words but by my example,
by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.