Homily for February 9

Salt and Light by Bernie Rosage, used with permission

Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Sometimes it’s just as important to be aware of what Jesus doesn’t say
as it is to pay attention to what he does say.
For instance, in the gospel we just heard,
Jesus doesn’t tell us to BECOME the salt of the earth,
he doesn’t tell us to be LIKE the salt of the earth  -
rather, he tells us we ARE the salt of the earth.

We are the salt

Salt adds to and brings out the flavor in food
- it brings out the best in what it seasons - in several different ways.
Salt can suppress bitterness…  it can increase sweetness…
and in higher concentrations it will enhance the savory.
Salt can also preserve and keep food from going bad.
But when salt goes flat - it’s of no use -
or if there’s too much salt, it can overwhelm and spoil a dish.

And Jesus says: you and I are the salt of the earth.

Notice, too, that Jesus doesn’t tell us BECOME the light of the world,
he doesn’t tell us to REFLECT the light of the world -
rather, he tells us we ARE the light of the world.

We are the light

Light allows us to see what there is to be seen:
to see what is beautiful and what is true - and what is not.
Light helps us to discover, discern and distinguish
between the good and the bad, between the true and the false,
between the authentic and the imitation.
Light rescues us from the danger of darkness.
Light brings us the warmth of the energy which is its source.
But when light dims, we see only in shadows, at best,
and the world around us begins to chill.

And Jesus says: you and I are the light of the world.

Salt and light…
These are strong, powerful, vital images Jesus uses here
and he uses them to describe US,
he uses salt and light as images
to illustrate who we were made to be for others
and what we were created to do for others.

Let me ask a question… who’s been “salt” in your life?

Whose love and friendship, whose advice and help,
whose very existence and companionship
have flavored, have seasoned your life?
Who has helped suppress some bitterness you’ve known?
Who has sweetened your life?
Whose interaction with you has made your life more savory?
more appetizing?  more appealing and palatable?
Whose “saltiness” has helped preserve your life?
has kept you from spoiling, from going bad?

Who comes to mind as you hear those questions?
Who has been salt for you in your life?

And I wonder… who’s been “light” in your life?

Whose light has helped you see more clearly
and especially to see more clearly what’s true, good,
beautiful, honest - and loving?
Whose light in your life has helped you distinguish
right from wrong, bad from good, the genuine from the fake -
and whose light has helped you live by those distinctions?
Whose light in your life has preserved you, rescued you,
from the danger of darkness? from the hopelessness of despair?
from the shadowy clouds of anxiety and doubt?
Whose light, with its heat and its warmth,
has kept you from the chill of loneliness,
saved you from being frozen by fear,
and preserved you from a winter of endless worry?

Who has been light in your life?

I hope you’ve known people who’ve been salt and light in your life.
And if those who were salt and light for you are now gone,
I hope that remembering and treasuring who they were for you
will restore the flavor and light and warmth they gave you.

And this morning I especially hope and pray that each of us knows
that just as some have been salt and light for us,
so are we called, every single one of us is called,
to be salt and light for others.
That’s what Jesus is telling us in the gospel today.

We ARE the salt of the earth…
We ARE the light of the world…

But if the salt of who we are has gone stale, has lost its taste,
and if our light has grown dim
and fails to illumine and warm the lives of those around us
then we’ve forgotten who we are and who we were made to be:
we’ve forgotten what Jesus has asks of us:
Jesus who is the salt and light of our lives and of our faith.

As you know, in March, on the first Sunday of Lent,
we’ll be celebrating only one mass at St. Luke’s on Sunday mornings.
That’s hard news to hear:
there aren’t enough people here on Sunday mornings
to justify two masses on the schedule.

The good news, I hope and pray,
is that those of us who come together at one mass
will find in a larger gathering
a greater, regenerating experience of faith and community.
AND that together we can begin again to work
towards welcoming home those who’ve drifted away
and inviting in those who’ve not yet shared our parish experience.

If we understand the challenge of the schedule change in this way
then we’ll be understanding ourselves as salt and light for others
especially for others who are no longer, or are not yet, with us.

The more seriously we take our call to be salt and light for others,
the more the inconvenience of the schedule change
has the potential to give way to the joy of growing our parish.

On the other hand, if we let our salt lose its flavor…
our light to dim…   and our warmth to cool…
then a very different story may play out here at St. Luke’s.
I trust and I hope
that we’re all praying for and that we’ll all work towards,
the former, not the latter.

I say all this,  aware that I’m new here.
I’ve not been part of the history of St. Luke’s
that runs deep in the faith and blood lines of you and your families.
I’m new - but I already love being here
and being here for you
and being, as best I can, salt and light for you.

In the season of Lent, just ahead,
I’m going to be celebrating all the weekend masses at St. Luke.
I’m very much looking forward
to praying and living through Lent with you
as we prepare together to celebrate Easter.

So, I’m hoping and praying that once the schedule changes,
you’ll still be here,
that the Lord and his Spirit will renew within  you, within each of you
the desire to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

We turn now, as we always do, to the altar.
Already nurtured by the Lord’s word in the scriptures,
we go to his table to be nourished with his life and love,
his Body and Blood, broken and shed for us on the Cross
and now shared with us in the Eucharist, in Communion.

May we become, more and more,
the salt and light we were created to be.
May our service of our neighbor season the world around us
and may we share the light and warmth of our faith
with any and all we meet and know.


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