Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Salt & Light
INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW no. 1:
“Jesus said to his disciples:
13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’”
Previous to our text, we see one of the main discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes (Mt. 5: 1-12). What follows is a couple of indications on how to be bearers of that message.
The writer of Matthew’s Gospel –belonging to the tradition of Levi, the Apostle known as St. Matthew- was a catechist very knowledgeable about all the oral traditions and the written documents containing information about Jesus: the Gospel of Mark and certain scripts containing sayings of Jesus (known as the Q source). What we find in this text are two sayings that Matthew places in this particular setting to give a serious warning to the Christian community.
The Two Parables
These two parables depict two pitfalls for a disciple: the losing of spiritual energy (parable about the salt); and paralyzing fear that may lead the Christian to hide that energy (parable about the light).
1. In the three Synoptic Gospels Jesus makes reference to salt.
In ancient times, salt was a very precious commodity, so much so that it was even used to pay the services of soldiers. In fact, the idiom “salt” is at etymological root of the word SALARY, worth a soldier’s wages.
Among us, a “salty” describes a tough character; however, in other countries it is an adjective used to describe a person’s cheer and gracefulness.
And even if chemists would probably not agree with Jesus when He said that salt may lose its “taste”, Jesus uses this image to prove how a person could risk losing her/his own identity and purpose in life.
Later in the Gospel, Matthew will give us a hint on how a Christian can actually lose his/her spiritual energy (Mt. 13: 22): by the “worries of the world” and the “lure of riches”; those choke God’s Word and make it fruitless.
But how can one preserve and nourish that spiritual energy?
All Gospels insist on two spiritual practices: prayer, and the direct contact and interaction with the neighbour (the sick, the marginalized). It is worth paying close attention to this as it is something that the Gospels stress so earnestly.
Alongside with this warning, Jesus pays a real compliment to his disciples: given the value of salt in those days, telling them they are “the salt of the earth” is much more than a tribute of appreciation; the expression shows that they carry within themselves a seed that can transform society.
2. The second image is a candle giving light. Matthew uses the basic truth that “a lit candle gives light”, to clarify that the disciple carries the Light of Christ within. S/he IS light, and needs to kindle the world with her/his good works. In this case, the candle is not in risk of losing its light (as the salt of losing its taste), but rather of being hidden, not shown, preventing thus the fulfilment for what it was created.
Beloved Daughter/Son of God
Finally, we should not miss one important message in this Gospel: in the first chapters of his Gospel, Matthew has spent much effort to show that Jesus is the Son of God (in the Conception of Mary Mt. 1: 18; at the Baptism of Jesus Mt. 3: 17) and he went on showing how Jesus behaved as the Son of God in the face of temptations (Mt. 4: 1-11); however, this is the first time the Gospel says that the disciples, too, are children of God, extending in this way God’s “Paternity” to Jesus’ followers. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus talks seventeen times about “your Father” or “your Father who is in heaven”. Clearly, Matthew wants to introduce Jesus as our Brother.
Put God’s Word in Action
In the best of the Gospel traditions, Matthew is an enthusiast of action. At the end of his Gospel (Mt. 25) before the narratives of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, the passage of the Last Judgment explains in details that one’s attitude and actions in favour of the most vulnerable is paramount to inheriting the Kingdom of God.
There have been dark moments in my life. Likewise, I can identify sides of my person and personality which remain unclear to my own perception. I can say that these represent the darkness of my life, or the spots that need to receive the Light of God. I take a bit of time to recognize my resistance to be a faithful witness of the Lord in all the circumstance of life, and immediately I turn to God in thanksgiving for the graces God has bestowed on me, for having bestowed on me the capacity to be light, to give evangelical flavor to my words, actions and relationships.
“Lord, God, Light that enlightens our minds and hearts.
Make us courageous to be able to pay more attention to our sisters and brothers in need.
In Jesus we are your adoptive children, and as children You make us heirs of your promises. We bless and praise You, Jesus, our Brother and Lord, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen”.
We are precious in the eyes of God.
We have been gifted with that gracefulness of God’s presence at Baptism. This gracefulness includes all our gifts, our capacity to relate and transmit the values of the Kingdom. God looks at us with loving eyes and we allow ourselves to be seen, to be scrutinized by God’s Word.
We find that we, too, are like earthen vessels containing the Mystery of God. The Light has came to take away our darkness, the darkness that diminishes the dignity of our brothers/sisters who suffer loneliness and solitude.
The daughter/son of God is called to put into action the Word we have received free of charge. We too, can contemplate the wonder of being bearers of the Good News by the choices we make. We are disciples who are apostles, sent to “make disciples of all the peoples” (Mt. 28: 19).
We can once again focus our eyes on God whom Jesus presents to us as our Father. We can renew our feelings of being a beloved child of a loving Father.
Within Our Darkest Night You Kindle A Fire that Never Dies Away
‘God sees you in your struggle. He sees you in your brokenness. He understands what you’re going through and when he sees you he is moved with tenderness and compassion.’ - Kyle Idleman -