My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I was saying at the beginning of Mass, our readings today from Sacred Scripture invite us to reflect on the Church’s mission — and our responsibility for that mission.
As you know, the Church’s mission can be summed up in one word: evangelization. Jesus called his Church, and every member of his Church, to evangelize. To share the “good news” of salvation with every person in every nation.
That’s our mission! In the Gospel that we just heard, Jesus is talking to us:
You are the salt of the earth …
You are the light of the world.
And this is our mission as Catholics, as followers of Jesus Christ. And each one of us has a part to play in that mission. Each one of us is called to be salt and light.
And I was thinking that these images that Jesus is using are very interesting.
Because salt and light do not really exist for their own sake. Usually we do not eat salt all by itself. We use salt to flavor other foods. The same thing is true with light. We shine a light so we can see when it is dark.
So Jesus is using these images today to tell us that our lives are not are own. We are not here just to serve our own purposes. We belong to God and we are here to serve God’s purposes.
We are called — all of us, as I said before and Pope Francis talks about it all the time — to be “missionary disciples.” No matter who we are. No matter what our role is in the Church. Not matter what our team is for today’s Super Bowl — doesn’t make any difference. Jesus is sending every one of us out into this world — to be salt and to be light.
We need to reflect on this because it’s so easy just to take it for granted. And think well I’m doing okay — I go to Mass on Sundays, I try to do my best at home, at work, everywhere.
But my brothers and sisters, that’s wonderful but don’t you think that that’s not enough? Just following what Jesus is asking us to do. Just reflecting on the fact that we belong to God and we are here to serve God’s purposes.
So he’s really sending us out to be the salt of the earth. He is calling us to add a “new flavor” to the world. To “season” the things of this world with a Christian perspective — the salt of the earth, with the wisdom of the Gospel, with the promise of God’s love and mercy.
The truth is that we all are called to share Christ’s beautiful vision for human life and human society with everyone.
So we really have a great mission as Christians, as Catholics. We really need to help our world to, once more, “taste and see that God is good.” It’s a great mission! It’s an exciting mission.
We really need to fill the world with the light of his Gospel, so those who are in darkness can walk in the light of life.
Of course the question for all of us is how are we going to do that? How is it possible with for with the personal circumstances of my life to really be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
We do it, my dear brothers and sisters, with the simple testimony of our lives.
St. Paul tells us in our second reading today that we proclaim Christ and his Gospel not only by our words. But more by our actions. Our words do not persuade anybody unless people can see in us the Spirit of God, the Spirit of love and mercy.
So how are we going to do it? With the testimony of our ordinary, daily life — living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
So we are called to change the world by the witness of our lives. That our love, that our holiness is possible. We can do it! We are called to do it! Especially if we rely on the grace of God.
But, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel of today’s Mass, our light shines when we do good deeds for others. And the prophet Isaiah tells us the exact same thing in the first reading of today’s Mass.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that we make God’s light break forth in the darkness — whenever we share our bread with the hungry. Whenever we shelter the homeless and clothe the naked. Whenever we open our hearts to the oppressed and the afflicted.
This is exactly, as we all know, what our society needs. More compassion, more justice. Real peace. Going out of our way to make life better for others.
It is a big challenge. Just listen to what the prophet Isaiah says:
“Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them. ... Then your light shall break forth like the dawn. … 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.”
It’s challenging but this is the way that we are called to live. Everyday. Little by little trying to make the world a better place, more like the Kingdom of God. More caring, more compassionate, more peaceful, more just.
That’s what our families are supposed to be. That’s what our work is supposed to be. That’s what our society supposed to be.
So let us ask for the grace to really have this desire to really be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
You probably remember this story from St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata. She used to tell this story:
One day a fish washed up on the shore and a man came by and put the fish back in the water and the fish swam away. Everybody made fun of that man.
They said, “You saved one fish, so what? Tomorrow there will be hundreds more fish that wash up on the shore. What difference did you make?”
And the man answered: “For that one fish, I made all the difference in the world. I saved him.”
My brothers and sisters, this is what it means to be salt and light. God wants us to help him save the world — one person at a time. Through acts of love. In our homes, in our families, with the people we are closest to.
What a beautiful challenge again. That’s what to be a missionary disciple is all about. One person at a time. Making life better for our people — the people that we live with, the people that we work, and the people that we live in our society.
So today, let us pray for the grace to be salt and to be light. And to share our bread with the hungry, and bring justice to those who are oppressed.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary intercede for us. To help us to be salt of the earth and the light of the world. That she might help us to help God — to redeem this world through our good deeds of love.
1. Readings (Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A): Isa. 58: 7–10; Ps. 112:4–9; 1 Cor. 2:1–5; Matt. 5:13–16