5th Sunday of the Year ( a ) 2020
When was the last time someone called you “the salt of the earth”? What about the other image: “the light of the world”? I am not sure when I last called someone “the salt of the earth”, but I do know I’ve never said to anyone, “you are the light of the world”, and for that matter no one has said it to me. What a compliment that would be. It’s not an expression we hear widely used; the “salt of the earth” yes. I’m sure I have called more than one person “the salt of the earth”. It’s a big compliment. I’m sure I made them feel good about themselves. It’s what we can say when we really believe someone is a really good person. I have never used the other expression: “you are the light of the world”. The closest I’ve got to it is “sunshine.” It’s not that uncommon in London to call someone by that word, “alright sunshine”, but it’s not really used as a compliment.
So how do you get to be the “light of the world”? Well, it’s there in the first reading from Isaiah. You ‘share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor. Clothe the man you see to be naked and shelter the homeless poor.’ And just in case you didn’t get it first time Isaiah repeats himself a few lines later: ‘If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, if you give your bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness.’ We are called not only to be the ‘salt of the earth’ but also ‘the light of the world’.
Notice how being “the light of the world” is about thinking of others, especially the hungry, the poor, the homeless, the oppressed. But notice ‘your own kin’ too. Isaiah tells us, ‘do not turn away from your own kin.’ It can be easy to be charitable to the stranger but not always easy to the people you live with, yet, as they say, “charity begins at home.” God is telling us that if we want to be happy then we will be givers; the happiest people I know are givers. To be happy is like being a ray of sunshine in someone’s life.
Unhappy people are often so because they are selfish; they think only of themselves. You could say, to stick with that symbol, that they live in darkness. That’s because their world is very small; it’s just themselves: a small dark world. We were not created to be selfish, to think only of ourselves, or to live in darkness. We were created to be givers, to think of others, and to live in the light. And yet, it’s so easy to be selfish. As children we can be selfish. We needed to be taught to share our sweets. Or, not to say “I want” all the time, think of others: what do they want? As a child I was taught, “I want doesn’t get.” We can grow up as children; thinking only of ourselves and not thinking of others, becoming the “me, me, me” generation. But this only leads to unhappiness and to darkness.
The Lord says to us: be the “light of the world.” Be the “salt of the earth.” Be generous. Be a giver. Reach out to others less fortunate than yourself. This is the secret of happiness, to be the “sunshine” that lightens not only our darkness but other peoples too.