By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, February 6, 2017

Salt is Good for Us

Now, before all the health experts get too upset, let me explain: by the title of this post I am lifting up a teaching of Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel, not offering an assessment of the place of salt in our diet.

In the Gospel passage proclaimed on the weekend (Matthew 5:13-16), Jesus is teaching about the mission he is entrusting to his disciples. He begins by comparing them to salt, of all things: “You are the salt of the earth.” To those whose thoughts might turn immediately to a salt shaker in the middle of the kitchen table, the analogy might seem rather strange. At the time of Jesus, salt exercised an extraordinarily important role, not only as a seasoner but also as a preservative (no refrigerators then!), keeping food from corruption. In this way Jesus is underscoring the great importance of Christian mission. The follower of Jesus is called to preserve the truth of God’s love and of his universal call to salvation, and, in this way, to guard against the corruption that arises from the lie that God does not care, that God limits our freedom, or even that God does not exist.

How to do this? Well, to answer this Jesus makes use of another analogy to describe the life of the disciple: “You are the light of the world.” We preserve truth and guard against the lie by reflecting to our world the light that Jesus is. I love the way the Fathers of the Church explained the mystery of the Church by comparison with the moon. Just as the light that shines from the moon at night is but a reflection of that of the sun, so the Church gives light by reflecting that of the Lord himself, who alone is Light for all people. We reflect this light by our good works. “[Let] your light shine before human beings, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

That this light is urgently needed in our time escapes no one, I am sure. Things seem very dark and dangerous in our world right now. Angry protests mix with fear of terror to create an environment of division and toxicity. Only when light shines to dispel this darkness will hope arise in our hearts. Our role as followers of the Lord is to be this light by so embracing the truth and shunning the lie that we are free to feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, right injustices (cf. Isaiah 58:6-10 - first reading on Sunday). By allowing these good works of ours to “shine”, we show that there is another way, a clear alternative to the moral darkness and confusion that abounds, namely, the way of the Gospel. This light places everything in proper perspective, gives understanding, and demonstrates the reason for hope.

Pass the salt, please. Humanity needs Christians to embrace their mission.