5th Sunday of the Year (a) 2017
Jesus tells his disciples: ‘you are the salt of the earth’, and ‘you are the light of the world’. He doesn’t say you will become these things; but here and now ‘you are the salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’. They have already become these things, without realising it. When Jesus speaks in this way he is speaking metaphorically; he doesn’t mean that there is literally a light that shines out of their bodies; like a torch or a candle. He teaches them that there is something about the way they live that shines out. It’s not a light, but it can be compared to a light. People will be helped by this light. Just like in a home a lightbulb helps in the dark; if there was no light then it would be difficult to find your way around, or to work. People will look up to them and admire them, but Jesus says ‘your good works give praise to your father in heaven’. It is God, the Father, who is to be praised and thanked for the light shining out in these men.
Jesus explains that it is their ‘good works’ which will shine out. What are these good works? The Prophet Isaiah tells us clearly what they are in the first Reading: ‘Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin’. These things are quite practical; it’s practical charity. It is not just praying for your neighbour it is also doing something for them. And if we do this we too will be a light or salt to the earth. The Responsorial psalm said: ‘the good man is a light in the darkness for the upright’ (Ps 111). Once again we’re back to the theme of light. Only this time it’s a light in the darkness.
What Jesus told his disciples he repeats to us: ‘you are the light of the world’, ‘you are salt to the earth’. Notice again, the tense: ‘you are’, here and now you are these things. The day we were baptised the Holy Spirit was given us; the Spirit inspires us to do these good works. It is then, the Holy Spirit ‘s light that shines out in us.
A good person is like a light. Others are attracted to that person. The person who cares about the poor of our world, who does something practical for them. Such a person is kind and generous. Others will want to be with them, because of their goodness. I have known many people like this, and seen the light shining out of them. It’s in their eyes, it’s in their smile. It’s very attractive.
We live in a world which badly needs such people. So much in our society isn’t good: there is much darkness. Darkness, like light, can be understood metaphorically. It means the absence of light; in other words the absence of goodness: when there is always greed and selfishness. It can touch an individual person, or a group, or a country or even a region. People who are out for themselves alone, who don’t really care about others; they have become very materialistic. In such a society there is a lot of darkness, but equally the good person will shine out even more.
People are attracted to goodness, even bad people. It’s not for nothing that Christ compares goodness to light. Light is good; it’s the opposite of darkness. As Christians people should be attracted to us; they should say to us some times: ‘you are a good person’, ‘you are kind’ ‘you are generous’. We should hear more than once people thank us for listening to them. People should say to us: ‘you are a good friend’, or ‘I value your friendship’; again, the good Christian should not be embarrassed when others say that they are trustworthy, people of integrity. These things the Christian should expect to hear. Because Christ said to us, as to the Apostles, ‘you are the salt of the earth’, ‘you are the light of the world’. It is the Holy Spirit given us at baptism who is doing these things in us.
So there is no need to worry about getting a big head when people say nice things to you. Remember it’s ultimately God working in you and through you that they see. So thank God. And when some one compliments you for your goodness, don’t be embarrassed, just say ‘thank you’. In this way they and you will give the praise to your Father in Heaven’.