|by Angela Lambert|
February 5th, 2017; Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gospel Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
People often complain that they need to see something to believe it. Although faith requires going beyond sight, the seeds of faith can be planted through allowing others to see for themselves the work of Christ in our lives. Authentic, Christian discipleship causes deep transformation. This supernatural change witnesses in an evidentiary way, the reality of the Holy Spirit and the life of grace.
The first converts to Christianity were moved by the way Christians lived differently than everyone else. In a callous, hedonistic culture, Christians treated one another with love and respect. Christian men and women treated each other with kindness, dignity, and fidelity. Slaves were considered brothers and sisters in Christ. Martyrs sacrificed everything, joyfully, in witness to their belief in the resurrection. The way martyrs faced their death so peacefully and courageously, converted many onlookers who could see plainly that the dying Christians were acting with a strength and calm that exceeded the limits of human nature. Tertullian famously articulated this phenomenon saying, “The blood of the martyrs, is the seed of the Church” (197 A.D.).
As modern Christians, our lives ought to witness the reality of grace as well, by following Christ beyond our comfort zone. Sometimes we can make our faith life a little too neat and tidy. We make Sunday Mass a casual commitment, and parish fellowship a comfortable social club. We might look to faith for comfort, but we don’t expect the impossible from God, and we ask that He not expect the impossible of us.
Although this sounds like a reasonable relationship, it doesn’t do much to reveal the life of grace or of the reality of God’s supernatural love and aid. After teaching the Beatitudes, the heart of the New Law, Jesus followed up with this analogy to salt and light. The journey of faith, though very personal, also has an evangelistic element; it’s a gift we both receive and give in return. Christ urges us to follow the path of the Beatitudes to its end. He’s honest that authentic discipleship will not blend in. Simply living the Christian faith, is a witness to truths that others try to avoid, and can result in numerous pressures from others to be quiet. Those pressures come in many forms – accusations of being overly zealous, judgmental, intolerant, or making one’ private faith public. Secular culture continues to find ways to diminish the witness of faith and put a bushel basket over the light by re-defining religion as personal sentiment, and forbidding it to bear external fruit unless that fruit can be limited to, and labeled, secular humanitarianism.
At the same time, although Christ was persecuted by some, He was sought out by many others. Jesus promised, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32). Blending in cannot transform us, and it cannot transform society. Rather, discipleship can make us free and add freedom to our culture. St. Paul told the Galatians, that the fruits of the Spirit are not of this world. By drawing near to God in prayer, the Spirit bears fruits within Christians of divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The world needs these fruits and hungers for them. If we keep our faith in a box that we only take out on Sundays or Christmas, we put a bushel over the light of Christ and make it impotent, leaving the world to suffer rather than to offer it hope.
I love Jesus’ analogy to salt. I love salt. It’s so basic, but it makes everything taste so wonderful. Our faith is the salt that makes life seasoned and enjoyable. If we offer the world a bland form of our faith, what is the point? We wouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable, but we would also deny them the chance to taste something remarkable.
Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He teaches us the path to follow and provides the necessary grace needed to make the journey. When we live in relationship with Him, our life can’t help but radiate His peace, love, and wisdom. If we can have the courage to follow Christ beyond our comfort zone, Christ promises that we can be a light for others to shine the truth they need to be free, and we can be the salt that seasons their life with His joy.
- What do you find comfortable about your Christian faith? What’s easy or natural for you?
- What do you find uncomfortable? What teachings seem “too much”? In which areas of your life, or among which people, do you try to downplay your faith?
- How might you live your faith more deeply or more authentically?
- Reflect on the effect of salt and light. Fast from salt for a day and consider the difference without it. Try functioning with only the aid of natural light rather than light bulbs. How does it limit your work and your experience?
- Consider each aspect of your day – home, work, activities, etc. Reflect on how you can live your faith in each place.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- At the beginning of each transition in your day, begin with a prayer for Christ to teach you, and help you, live as His disciple in that part of your life.
- The prayer can be a spontaneous prayer of your own words, or a written prayer you recite at each transition. Ideas: Our Father, Glory Be, Hail Mary, Memorare, a verse from a Psalm, a prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Disciple prayer by Cardinal Newman, etc. (I personally like the prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Grant O Merciful God, that I may ardently desire, prudently examine, truthfully acknowledge, and perfectly accomplish, what is pleasing to Thee, for the praise and glory of Thy Name.)
The Beatitudes: Climbing the Mountain of God by Way of the Valley of Humility
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017
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