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Blog: February 5, 2023

Fr. Jeff and others share reflections on the Sunday readings.

February 5, 2023

Jesus said to his disciples:

“You are the salt of the earth.

But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

It is no longer good for anything

but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;

it is set on a lampstand,

where it gives light to all in the house.

Just so, your light must shine before others,

that they may see your good deeds

and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Today’s gospel follows the Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. In the previous chapter, Jesus faces his temptation by the devil, begins his ministry in Galilee, and calls his first disciples. In response to Jesus’s teaching and miracles at the beginning of his ministry, Matthew notes, “And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.” The Sermon on the Mount is directed to Jesus’s disciples and to the crowds. 

It is worthy to consider who was listening to Jesus. In the Holy Land, there is a place designated as the Mount of the Beatitudes, which is a location overlooking the Sea of Galilee where Jesus could have preached the Sermon on the Mount. The people listening to Jesus, mostly from Galilee, would have been simple people, many of them poor and living a life of subsistence. Their jobs would have been ordinary and common, like fishermen, like Peter, James, and John. They lived in an out of the way, unimportant and rather obscure area of the world, Galilee. It was not a seat of power, a place of great commerce, or an esteemed center of learning. It was Galilee and their lives were not complicated. 

Imagine how radical and dramatic Jesus’s words would have been to them, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” What must they have thought? Would anyone at anytime have spoken like that to them? Was he exaggerating? Delusional? Out of touch with reality? Did it stir within them a latent hope? Ignite a desire? Open a new horizon of possibilities? Or a new depth to the meaning of ordinary? In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah tells us, “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.”

These are not complicated actions, but they are in some sense extraordinary. When we are so focused on our own needs or desires that we have no room for the other, going outside of ourselves to meet the needs of others is extraordinary. Generosity in the face of our own need is remarkable. It is, in fact, a miracle. It is a subversive light in the midst of the darkness of our world. It does give spice to life. It is the salt of the earth. Generosity goes against our sense of self preservation, our limited horizon, and our self interest. Even in small ways, it moves us outside of ourselves, expands our horizons, and connects us to our common humanity. It is a miracle of God’s grace and our response that we are concerned for others. However ordinary our lives, however simple, however obscure, we are the light God shines in the darkness, we are the salt of the earth. Your life, your choices, and your generosity matters! You are a city on a hill that cannot be hidden and a lamp set on a lampstand to give light to all the house.