Feb. 5, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A. Readings:
1) Isaiah 58:7-10
2) 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Gospel: Matthew 5:13-16
By Deacon Mike Ellerbrock
Catholic News Service
When Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth,” his metaphor may have evoked bad memories and feelings of horror. At the least, it may have seemed a puzzling statement.
Under Roman domination, Jewish peasant farmers had to pay several annual taxes. Most burdensome were the Temple tax of half a shekel to Jerusalem authorities and property tax to local magistrates levied at a sizable percent of their agricultural produce. If they refused or were delinquent, Roman soldiers would cruelly salt their fields to destroy their livelihood. The threat was terrifying.
Frequently in Israelite history, conquering invaders would salt the land to declare their victory and intimidate the vanquished into servitude and worship of their new king. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, “salted land” was synonymous with “desert wasteland,” a painful reminder of dark days.
On the other hand, it was Jewish custom to see salt as symbolic of a covenantal relationship. In sacred ritual, Temple priests used salt to sparkle incense. All offerings had to be sprinkled with salt.
Israelites also used salt as a food preservative and source of flavor to spice up meat.
Jesus’ declaration calls his disciples — then and now — to see themselves as the salt that cures, not as salt that punishes or oppresses. He calls us to be a cure for injustice and an antidote for oppression. By ministering to the suffering he urges us to be “the light of the world.” Visible from the mountaintop, our bold discipleship cannot be hidden under a bushel basket, but instead must be “light to all in the house,” glorifying God by our lives.
Also, Jesus calls all followers to be the salt that both preserves the faith and invigorates it with our actions.
The vast majority of Americans reported feeling “repulsed” by our recent national election campaign. Why did it sink so low? Are fear and anger so pervasive that our salt has gone sour, infected our spirit? As disciples of Christ we are called to be a light to all.
Founded on the ideals of indivisibility, liberty and justice for all, the U.S. professes to be one nation under God. May our actions match our words!
With a new presidential administration, what will I personally do to manifest healing and unity after such a divisive campaign? How can we as a nation be a light to the world?