Salt and “light” create environment for God to work

By: By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb. 6

Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalm 112:4-5,6-7,8-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16

During these winter days, any hint of light becomes a time of celebration. When the sun breaks through the gloomy days, we are lifted in spirit. As each day gets a bit longer, there is a joy in the air.

Light is an interesting phenomenon. It really does not add any thing to a place where it is. A room in the dark is the exact same room as one with light. The difference is what can happen in the room with light. One is able to move around in the room without falling over and do things with the aid of light. The perspective of those in the room is almost totally changed.

Light, by its very nature, attracts and illuminates. Jesus must have this in mind when He describes His followers as “light.” Jesus speaks about the necessity of light, and calls His disciples to be “light for the world.” He does not say “you could be” or “try to be,” but “you are the light of the world.”

When we are light, we are able to attract goodness in the world; we add no more to the situation than changing how people are able to see themselves and others. We shed light on a darkened world. It really is nothing we do; it is who we are. And that is a radical difference.

Jesus also describes the disciples as “salt.” You probably have heard the phrase “he/she is the salt of the earth.” Such a person has integrity; is solid, dependable, and loyal. People on low-salt diets know how food without salt tastes different. It’s also true that too much salt can ruin a dish of food. The role of salt is to be an enhancer without overdoing it.

How are we, as disciples, “light and salt?” Light and salt do not draw attention to themselves; they are not the center of attention. They serve their role best by providing what is necessary for the situation.

Light gives us the ability to do what we do without stumbling. Salt is not noticed in food when it is the correct amount. A disciple brings “good news” to those who are open to hear without being the “good news” themselves. They create the environment where God can work.

Isaiah, in the first reading, suggests how we are to be “light for the world” and “salt of the earth.”

“Sharing what we have with those in need . . . the hungry, the oppressed, the homeless, clothing the naked” (Isaiah 58:7) are the specific ways that the Lord makes clear that we are light and salt. Isaiah continues: “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech . . . then light shall rise for you in the darkness.” (Isaiah 58:9b)

I once heard a marvelous explanation of how to remove malicious speech from one’s midst: “When I hear malicious speech, I resolve to absorb it rather than pass it to another person. That way the evil of such speech is stopped.”

The link is there. We are the light; we are the salt. When we are faithful to who we are, we reach out to those in need, respecting and honoring each person we meet. When we attend to others, we ourselves are healed. It is the circle of life.

SISTER RACHEL Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. She serves as pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights.

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