Fifth Sunday in Ordinary
February 9, 2014
A Homily - Cycle A - 2013-2014
by Rev. Luke Dundon
First Reading - Isaiah 58:7-10
Responsorial Psalm - 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
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."
You are the salt of the earth. You know the saltiest body of water on earth? The Dead Sea . . . and appropriately names, for itís PACKED with salt . . . and salt, clumped together by itself, is not exactly conductive to life. Itís impossible to sink in the Dead Sea, but I wouldnít recommend going swimming there . . . one gulp of THAT salt water would send you the hospital, if you even survived that long. Why is the Dead Sea so dead? Why is the Sea of Galilee, just a few hours north, so full of life? The Sea of Galilee has been so full of life, for thousands of years, because it has a flow of water from streams on the northern edge, and it empties itself on the southern edge, flowing water down the Jordan toward the dead sea. Water flows INTO the Sea of Galilee, but doesnít just sit there. It eventually keeps on moving, onto the Jordan River in the south. Thus maintaining the oxygen content. Thus regulating the salt content. Thus allowing for life to flourish. The dead sea, however, receives the water from the sea of Galilee, and just holds it there. It evaporates over time, because itís relatively warm down there. And so the Dead Sea becomes more and more stagnant, more salty, more DEAD, over time! Salt, by itself, isnít very tasty . . . it stings the tongue. As far as I know, itís only good when you sprinkle it (just a little!) on some food.
And I think thatís why Jesus calls us salt. And also light. Both salt (and light) are really only valued when theyíre used FOR something else. When theyíre poured OVER something else. When theyíre SHONE on something else. Using salt and light to describe US, is actually quite a compliment. Go to any restaurant, and youíll see salt on the table. When we go home tonight, we will be relying on light to see our way around! But these two things only make sense, theyíre only useful, theyíre only POWERFUL . . . when theyíre used for something! Just like us . . . we are most powerful . . . when we give of ourselves . . . for one another. We are most life-giving . . . when we love another. We are most full of life ourselves . . . when we offer our life for another.
Of course, this applies to the material realm, giving bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, helping someone who is down on their luck . . . but it also has spiritual implications. We will most value the light of our faith Ė when we pass it on to someone else. Maybe thatís why our Religious Ed teachers signed up for the CCD program this year. Our DRE asked them for their reactions to teaching CCD. The responses are nothing short of beautiful. Weíll be handing out brochures after Mass which have these responses contained inside. Itís a gift for ME to see how much they get out of passing on their faith in, their friendship with, Jesus Christ. But that isnít the only way to pass on our faith. It can be quite powerfully shown by example, through prayer. And of course we can pray SILENTLY for another person with all our hearts, but what if . . . what if that other person doesnít know HOW to pray . . . at all? Then, perhaps, our greatest gift ever, is to pray for them, and WITH them, out loud. I know that many of us (including myself) may be at first uncomfortable with this. We donít have the right words, we havenít studied theology, we arenít Pope Francis, we have no spiritual wisdom . . . but then, St. Paul said he didnít either . . . but that didnít matter . . . what mattered was that he ALLOWED the Spirit to speak through him in his prayer for the early Christian community.
The ability to pray for another, audibly, is one of the greatest and most underused powers that we have as Christians. If we donít know what words to use when praying with another, GREAT Ė it wonít be our words then, it will be His. If we donít even know how to start, WONDERFUL - we already have words to use, such as the Our Father or the Hail Mary. If we donít really see how such a power can be USED, then EXCELLENT - a brand new way, weíll become more like that life-giving Sea of Galilee, weíll open ourselves to be used by the Lord in a way that literally brings peace and healing to peoplesí lives. Dear Lord, I just ask that you give us the strength, to audibly and powerfully pray with ONE PERSON this coming week . . . so that WE may see what itís like . . . to be Your Light.