The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
February 9, 2020 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:13-16
Turn on the light and please pass the salt. These requests, while typical in today’s homes, packed extra meaning in the time of Jesus. First, something about light. Jesus lived a long time before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. After the sun set in First Century Israel, people would light a fire or a candle to see. In the dark it could be dangerous. Customary daily activities had to stop. Think of the panic we experience when the power goes off in our homes.
So, when Jesus was called “the light of the world,” people immediately knew the meaning of such a reference. So too when Jesus said that they were to be a light to the world. In a sense, the world immediately around us was be illuminated by their presence.
And what about the reference to salt? Today we are told to be careful about how much salt we take into our bodies. Science tells us we need a modest amount of salt for certain critical bodily functions to work well. But not too much. A saltshaker on the table contains enough salt for the family for weeks.
While salt does not seem that important today, this was not true during the time of Jesus. During his time salt was needed to preserve food. Fish, meat and produce were all salted so they would not spoil. Historians tell us that most major pre-historic populations were established near sources of salt. Salt was widely used in commerce as currency. Most major religions used salt in their rituals.
In brief, light and salt were necessities for life. Jesus could not have chosen better images to underscore the importance of living a genuine holy and God-inspired life. We are to dedicate ourselves to preserving life and enhancing it by our good deeds. Plain and simple, yet of central importance.
The effect of light and salt are due to the way both are active ingredients of making life better for others. This invitation of Jesus dispels any idea that being his disciple involves simply a passive response as his follower. Some organizations require of their members that they only pay their dues. While fuller participation in the organization’s life is welcome, it’s not required. Just pay your dues. Christianity is not like that. Membership in the church as a disciple (which we all are) places demands on us. To be light and salt, to enlighten others and season their lives by our love is an everyday challenge. And in that “giving” of ourselves, we will be doing what Christ did, day by day.
©David M Thomas, PhD
REFLECTION QUESTIONS: Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method of Review of Life.