5th Sunday A

Growing up in the Ireland of the nineteen fifties, Catholics were indistinguishable from the general population. Everyone went to church on Sunday and on Saturdays there were lines waiting for Confession.  The priests preached sermons on topics provided by the hierarchy, and special mission priests came every couple of years to peach on the fearful judgments of God. They spoke on the dangers of alcohol, company keeping, mortal sin and what was called ‘holy purity.’ These men did their best to keep us out of hell and turn us into the salt of the earth and light of the world.

In my teen years Catholic Ireland was like the city in the Gospel built on a hilltop, whose missionaries brought the light of Christ to the four corners of the earth. Many young people wanted to be like them. That was then. Today, most people have drifted with the majority away from the Gospel preached and lived by Jesus. A smaller number have taken it into their everyday lives and made lifestyle adjustments accordingly. Gandhi once said that “If Christians would live according to the teachings of Christ as found in the gospels, all India would be Christian today.” Powerful stuff! Our everyday life choices speak. The de facto salt of the earth nurtures new life.

Jesus told his followers that they were salt of the earth and light of the world. Salt doesn’t measure up to other examples that Jesus could have offered, like a fine wine or an excellent T-bone steak. We consume salt but it’s not appetising when we eat it on its own. It’s at its best when it is mixed into the pot with other edible ingredients, for then it adds flavour to food and enriches its taste. A meal without salt tastes flat. Salt gives food a bit of a kick and makes us healthier and feel better. We are like salt of the earth when we roll up our sleeves, get into the human mix and offer a better taste of life to others.

We cannot see light itself. We can see only what light lights up, like the little circle of light where the candle flickers in the dark. Beyond it a sheen of mahogany, a wineglass, a face leaning towards us out of the shadows.  When Jesus says he is the light of the world maybe something like that is what he is saying. He himself is beyond our seeing, but in the darkness we might glimpse something of the path that stretches from our door – something of whatever it is that keeps us trying to follow the path even when it’s dark and we have our doubts. But then, every now and again, we sense something or someone leaning towards us out of the shadows.

Fr. QQ – 02/01/2023

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