You are the Salt of the Earth
We have all, at some time or other, heard somebody described as ‘salt of the earth’. Its an expression we use for a very wholesome person… somebody who could be described as ‘the best in the world… somebody with a big heart who will go over and above the call of duty. It seems that the expression has its origins in the passage which we have just heard from St. Matthew’s Gospel.
What did Jesus mean when he turned to his followers and told them that they were the salt of the earth, the light of the world ? Perhaps he was telling them that, as individuals and as a Christian community, they were called, in the words of Isaiah, to act with integrity and ‘shine like the dawn’, to be bright lights in an otherwise darkened world.
If one reflects on the the way salt was used in antiquity a number of common uses come to mind : (1) Salt was used as a preservative which kept food fresh (2) Its antiseptic and healing qualities meant that it was commonly used to clean open wounds and to aid the healing process and (3) it was used as a spice which brought otherwise bland food to life.By analogy then, when Christ describes his followers as ‘salt of the earth’, perhaps he meant that we are called to preserve the Christian message and keep it ever fresh by our lives, choices, actions and example. We are also called to be a source of healing in a wounded world, to reflect God’s healing mercy to hardened hearts, and to those whose lives are broken or wounded. Finally we are called to bring a unique perspective, zeal or flavour to the manner of our living which is attractive to others because of our Christian hope which gives life meaning in a world where life, for so many, seems so bland, banal or even pointless.
In short, our lives must shine out as bright lights, our faith cannot solely be some private affair or hidden aspect of our lives which we do not share – like a lamp hidden under a tub. We Christians are called to live our faith publically and authentically and we must be alert to the danger of opting for a form of mediocrity or half-heartedness which results in the Gospel message appearing bland or tired and outdated, like salt that has lost its taste. We are charged with the responsibility of preserving the Gospel message in our time and and living it in a way that is fresh, attractive and ever new.