Homily for the fifth Sunday in the year

Year A  -  Mt. 5:13-16


Father Daniel Meynen

"Jesus said:  «You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.

"«You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.   15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.»"


"Jesus said:  «You are the salt of the earth.»"

The Gospel passage we read today is very well-known:  Jesus speaks to us of the role that his disciples, that we Christians, play in the world in which we live as we await the new world, that which God will unveil to us when he returns in the end times!   "You are the salt of the earth," Jesus said.  What does this mean?  Aren't the disciples of Christ men and women, like all the other men and women of this world?  Yes, certainly.  But there is a difference:  the disciples of Christ have something more that changes them into other beings.  Jesus said:  "You ARE the salt of the earth."

The disciples of Christ are different from the other men and women of the earth.  Jesus said so when, speaking of his disciples, he prayed to his Father on the day before his Passion:  "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (John 17:16)  It is evident that Jesus bases this difference on that which he himself is!  Now, Jesus is first, and always, the Son of God:  he is man, but he is above all the Son of God, born of the Father before all time.  So, similarly, but according to an other relation, the disciples of Christ are also sons of God:  they participate in the divine life which the Father gives them in his Son through the Holy Spirit!

To the extent that we hope for eternal life, God makes us "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) which belongs to him.  If we keep our eyes turned toward Heaven, if we are faithful in awaiting the Savior who will come to renew the face of the earth, then we are no longer similar to the other men and women of the world:  we are sons of
God in hope, for "in this hope we were saved." (Rm. 8:24)  It is therefore necessary for us to ask the Lord to maintain us in this holy hope;  otherwise, the salt which we are will be tasteless, and Jesus will say:  "If salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men."

"«You are the light of the world.»"

If the figure of salt may seem banal and without magnificence, on the other hand that of light dazzles us and could make us lose our senses.  Think about what happened to the angel who was called "Light-bearer," or "Lucifer"!  There is a risk, and it is very real.  Yet, these are the very words of the Lord:  "You are the light of the world."  How then can we be, without risk, "the light of the world"?  Is it possible?  If Jesus said these words, and he did indeed say them, then there is no doubt that it is possible.  How, then?  Simply by not being a light in ourselves, as Lucifer was, but rather a light in God alone and for God alone!

Saint Paul himself taught this, when he wrote to the Ephesians:  "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light." (Ep. 5:8)  He who is not a light in the Lord cannot be a true light.  If we want to be a light for the world and participate in the mission of Jesus who comes to illuminate every man on earth (cf. Jn. 1:9), then, we have to live in God and accomplish works of salvation, and not works of eternal death.  "The fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true, and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness." (Ep. 5:9-11)

Therefore, we don't need to accomplish dazzling and magnificent things in order to be a light of the world.  It is sufficient for us to remain in the Lord, who is the true light coming into this world:  we can be missionaries and illuminate the whole world while remaining in the obscurity of our present condition, unremarkable, without prominence, but full of love for God and man.  Wasn't Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, who never left her Carmel, proclaimed a patron saint of the missions along with Saint Francis Xavier, who did go to faraway missions?  There is no doubt:  Saint Theresa was also a great light in Christ, she who is now a Doctor of the Church!

Salt of the earth, light of the world!  Two symbols for us to meditate upon!  May the Lord deign to illuminate us further on this point.  Let us ask this of him during the course of this eucharistic celebration.  May Mary, the most magnificent of the lights in Christ, help us through her prayer!  May Jesus be given to us through Mary today!