Jesus always chose His words carefully, as He does in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew
5:13-16), from His Sermon on the Mount, a continuation from the Beatitudes in verses
1-12. In this part, He explains to His followers what He expects of them.
We might think of His sermon as a coach talking to his players before the big game,
or a general instructing his troops before a big battle – yet we know that this is much
more, for this is Jesus talking to us about life itself and about the mission of our life. In
this sense, Jesus gives us our life-mission: to be salt and light for the world around us.
Salt had at least two functions in the ancient world, as it does today: it gives flavor to
food, and it also preserves food. Without refrigerators, people preserve meat by putting a thin layer of salt over it. Light had the same function then as it does now: to push back the darkness. In the ancient world, however, darkness was a much more dramatic reality. They understood how helpless they were without a lamp. We, on the other hand, because electric lighting is everywhere, rarely even have to think about our need for light. Salt and light, then, are the comparisons Jesus uses to explain our life-mission.
And what is the common characteristic of salt and light? They are both for something
else. Their purpose is not self-centered, but other-centered. And that’s the point. A
Christian disciple’s mission in the world, in imitation of Christ, is to be a vessel, an
instrument of love and mercy for others, to influence and help other people by bringing them the power and the illumination of the Gospel, the message of Jesus Christ – of Salvation, Truth, mercy, faith, hope and love.
We live our life-mission, salt and light for the world, and we’re strengthened and
encouraged by God when we pray, read God’s Word, frequent the Sacraments of
Confession and Holy Communion, live the virtues of faith, hope and love, keep God’s
Commandments, pray with the saints, and live the beatitudes. We also live our life mission by being merciful: “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” (Isaiah 58:7-10). These, in
part, correspond to the corporal works of mercy that Jesus teaches in Matthew 25. We
can also consider the traditional spiritual works of mercy: comforting the sorrowful,
instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, counseling the doubtful, praying for
the living and the dead, bearing wrongs patiently, and forgiving injuries. In all of these
ways, by God’s grace, we are fulfilling our life-mission in Jesus Christ, of being salt and
light for an often confused, dark and broken secular culture that so desperately needs
the Only Savior of the world.
With peace and prayers in Christ,