5 Sunday of the Year, A
Is 58:7-10; 1Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2007 and republished in Viet Nam 2010. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
In the old times when there was no refrigerator, salt was used as a preservative for food. In our times, some industries still use salt for the same purpose. When cooking, people also season food with salt for flavor. If we do not eat salt for a long time, we will lose strength. Sometime ago, it was reported a woman in Florida, due to her high blood pressure, did not eat salt for a certain period. As a result, she collapsed, unable to walk. Besides the function of preservation and seasoning for food, the salt-metaphor also has a purifying function for the Hebrew mind (2K 2:19-22). Jesus born a Jew also uses the salt metaphor to teach us a lesson in our faith life. He tells us in today’s gospel: You are the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13).
Thus, a Christian has to purify, season and preserve his/her life of faith with his/her prayers, acts of worship and works of charity. The works of charity, which the Book of Isaiah points out today are: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked, and do not turn your back on your own (Is 58:7). The theme of light symbolism can be found throughout the Holy Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments. At the beginning of creation, the universe is portrayed in darkness as the book of Genesis tells us: darkness covered the abyss (Gn 1:2).
Then God orders light to appear to separate light from darkness saying: Let there be light (Gn 1:3). To speak of darkness, people often associate it with ghost, evil and sin. Darkness often panics children; sometimes it even does an adult. When a sin is committed, it is often hidden in the dark. Christ came to cast out the darkness of sin and death and show us the way to God the Father.
On the Easter Vigil, with the surrounding darkness in the church, the Easter candle is lighted, representing Christ, the light of the world. Then the priest lights the catechumen’s baptismal candle from the Easter candle and offers it to the parent or Godparent, saying: Parents and Godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. These children of yours have been enlightened by Christ. They are to walk always as children of the light. May they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts (Rite of baptism).
Light is an image of God. Jesus came to reveal himself as the light of the world. To believe and be baptized in Jesus Christ, we are enlightened by the light of Christ. In today’s gospel, Jesus also tells us: You are the light of the world (Mt 5:14). When we eliminate the darkness of sin from our lives, then our thoughts, words and actions will begin to shine. To be reflected by the light of Christ, we will become the means for others to recognize his light. Our prayers, acts of worship and works of charity also shine so that the world may recognize God and glorify his name. When performing prayers, acts of worship and works of charity, we should seek the glory of God, not our own glory that is we should forget ourselves so that God may be glorified. There is a proverb that says: We cannot give to others, what we do not have. So to be ‘the salt of the earth’ (Mt 5:13), we must have salt in our lives. We have to preserve our life of faith first, before we can preserve society from being decayed. Similarly, the faithful can only be the light of the world, when they possess God in their lives and live in God’s grace.
Today we need to ask ourselves whether the salt of faith is still tasty or has it become insipid in our lives. Do I practice my faith at home? Do I bear witness to my faith in my work place, in the society where I live in? Do I pray at home before I go to bed? Do I go to church on Sunday? Is the light of faith still shining or has it become dimmed? When we brought our children to the water of baptism, we promised to bring them up in the practice of faith. Thus, do I send my children to religious education? Do my children know those basic prayers such as our Father, Hail Mary, the Creed and the Ten Commandments? Have my grown-up children made their first confession, received first communion and confirmation? The above questions are raised in order to help us see at what level our salt of faith and our light of faith are. When we try to find reasons to excuse ourselves easily from doing certain works of faith and works of charity and more and more excuses are added up to a point, where we might have no longer energy to rise up.
A prayer for our salt of the earth to be seasoned and our light of faith to shine:
Oh, Lord our God!
We thank you for the faith we received at baptism.
Forgive me for the times I neglected my practice of faith,
for the times I insisted on my unbelief,
for the times I refused to seek the light of your word.
for the times I was lazy in studying the teaching of religion,
for the times I refused to rely on those with strong faith
as to help strengthen and renew my faith.
When darkness covers my mind, shine your light
so that I may walk in the light of faith. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong