5th Sunday Ordinary Time
A Homily - Cycle A - 2004-2005

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First Reading - Isaiah 58:7-10
Psalm - 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Gospel - Matthew 5:13-16

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

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 lamp stand, 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."

Last week's Gospel, featuring the Beatitudes, constitutes the first twelve verses of Matthew chapter five.  Today, we begin with Verse 13.  Last week, our Lord presented us with the blueprint or plan for the interior dispositions we ought to have in regards to authentic discipleship.  The Beatitudes present us with the proper mindset and interior aspirations that we ought to maintain if we are to be effective in the world.

This week's Gospel turns us to another component of our vocation to holiness: external action.  Animated by the Beatitudes, Jesus now calls us to reach beyond ourselves and reach out towards others.  In order to illustrate the point, he compares us to two elements: salt and light.  These two elements were very familiar to our Lord's audience and they should be familiar to us as well.

We use salt in any number of ways.  Salt is used for melting ice on snowy roadways.  Bath salts are used for therapeutic and relaxation purposes.  In our Lord's time, salt was most often used as a preservative and as a flavoring condiment.  In the years prior to refrigeration, salt was used to preserve meat.  These days, this technique is more of a novelty, but in our Lord's day, it was the common practice.  Just as salt was used to preserve meat, so is the Catholic called to be salt in the world - to help preserve the world from its tendency towards self-destruction.  When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, the world was set on an irreversible path towards self-destruction.  After Adam and Eve, we saw the first murder in Cain and Abel.  Years later, the Tower of Babel and the rise of cities like Sodom and Gomorrah signaled new lows in human behavior - sin abounded.  But as much as sin abounded, grace abounded all the more in the person of the Lord Jesus - the great remedy to the world's tendency towards self-destruction.  Our Lord conquers sin and death itself.  As followers of the Lord Jesus, we too, are called to help put an end to the decay and destruction and divisiveness we see all around us.  We can be agents for change and conversion among our brothers and sisters - we can inspire them to love God and work towards their salvation.

Salt has another function: to give flavor to food.  Like salt, the Catholic in the world should help direct others to a life of greater transcendence - to a life that is more meaningful than a life only focused on the pursuit of pleasure.  Sooner or later, this pursuit of pleasure leaves the human person empty and disillusioned.  Even children experience this at an early age.  Give a child a toy and they are happy with it for awhile.  Sooner or later, however, they become bored - they want the next toy and the next and the next.  The Catholic is uniquely positioned to help show persons caught up in neo-paganism that this life is not an ends unto itself, but a preparation for the next.  That kind of flavoring in the world is irreplaceable because that kind of flavoring actually answers the deepest longings of the human heart, something that the neo-pagan cannot find in his world.  It is the kind of flavoring that finds the redemptive value in suffering and hope in the promise that our Lord has already conquered suffering and death itself.

As light, Catholics are called to dispel the confusion and darkness that clouds the vision of those trapped in error and sin.  Catholics possess THE TRUTH, who is our Lord - a real person, not an abstract idea.  Notice that our Lord never said that His teachings are the way, the truth and life per se.  Rather, He claims that I AM THE TRUTH, THE WAY AND THE LIFE.  that means that the truth is incarnate, especially in the Eucharist.  When a conversion occurs and the human person begins to see that THE TRUTH is within reach and that our Lord reveals to us the truth of who we are, only good things can happen.  The Catholic should have a very firm grasp on the meaning of life - a clear idea of why we are here and where we are going.  We ought to know that God made us for the purpose of knowing, loving and serving Him in this life so as to be happy with Him in the next.  God did not make us for OUR pleasure, but for His.  We know the meaning of life and we ought to wake up each day and remind ourselves of what it's all for.  Catholics do not adhere to the message of that bumper sticker that says to "perform random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty."  Catholics don't do things randomly or senselessly - we are focused and determined on our end because we know what we need to do.  We are goal-oriented.  That goal is nothing short of eternal glory with God.

As light, we are also called to do good works.  The first reading from Isaiah tells us that our light shall break forth like the dawn when we feed the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, clothe the naked and attend to the marginalized.  The prophet reminds us that darkness will be scattered when we rid the world of oppression, of false accusation and of malicious speech.  Christ tells us that our light must shine forth before others so that others may give glory to God.  This means that is quite good for others to see the good we do so long as our intent is pure - to inspire them to give glory to God.  If someone tells you how wonderful you are and you say, "I know," then you're intent is not pure.  If you say, "Praise God or Give God the praise," and you say it with integrity then you are on your way.

So, animated by the spirit of the Beatitudes, let us strive this Lent to be salt of the earth: to help prevent further moral decay in our land and to spread the flavor of transcendence with we possess.  let us also strive to be light: to not only do good deeds so as to inspire men to give God praise but also to spread the Truth, who is a person - the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope and expectation!

Praised be Jesus Christ!  Now and forever!

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