Homily for the fifth Sunday of the year - Year A - Mt. 5:13-16
Father Daniel Meynen
"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
"You are the salt of the earth."
When God created man, he took some earth and fashioned from it a man's body. Then he blew into the nostrils of the man, and the man became a living being. This is what the Book of Genesis tells us: "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Gn. 2:7) Man is made of earth, of dust from the ground... In a few days, we will receive a dust of ashes upon our head in order to remind us of our initial condition. The priest will then say to us: "Memento homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris", "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return."
This humbling sentence is taken from the following passage of Genesis, in which God enjoined man to work for the expiation of the sin he had just committed: "God said to the man, '...In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.' " (Gn. 3:17-19) So, because of his sin, man, made of dust from the ground, is obliged to work to earn his bread... Work that is sometimes hard and painful, work that makes him sweat! In short, it is a work or an enterprise that brings forth from this earth the "salty" liquid we call sweat...
Jesus said: "You are the salt of the earth." Or in other words: "You are workers!" The Christian is a worker, he earns his bread by the sweat of his brow! This is the first and the most beautiful example that the Christian can give the world: the work he does to feed his family. Is this not what Jesus did until the age of thirty, before he began proclaiming the Good News? Is this not what Jesus did in imitation of Saint Joseph, his foster father? Is this not what so many men and women did in the past, and still do today, to obtain for their children a happy life?
"If salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men."
There is salt, and then there is salt... There is work, and then there is work... A Christian must do Christian work... But what is Christian work? Jesus has already told us: "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you." (Jn. 6:27) Thus, the purpose of Christian work must be eternal life, that life which is God's very life and which will be given to us so that we might share in it in Jesus Christ. Christian work is not done solely to earn one's earthly bread, but also, and first, to receive from God the living Bread that is Jesus himself! The true salt of the earth should give taste to the Bread of eternal Life!
"You are the light of the world."
From this dust, from this earth, there shines a light: the light of the world! "You are the light of the world," says Jesus. What a contrast! The sinner who works and toils to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow is the light of the world! But there is nothing astonishing in this. For the Christian, who is a true man, is another Christ! Now, Christ died and... was resurrected! Christ was resurrected, he got up and left the dark tomb to eternally manifest what he is: the Light of God! "The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world." (Jn. 1:9) Thus, following Christ, the Christian - who died and was resurrected through baptism and the Eucharist, the Bread of God - is the light of the world!
"A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
How will the Christian shine in the eyes of the world? Through his good works! These will consist, first, of a life of loving faith, one that is turned toward the realities of Heaven. To the question: "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?", Jesus replied: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." (Jn. 6:28-29) And this faith in Jesus Christ will be realized in several ways: respect for the Law of God, respect for human life, respect for natural law. The Christian must shine through his humility, through his generosity, and through his charity, which will always have as its ultimate goal the proclamation of the truth!
Today's world is so ignorant of the truth that our first act of charity must be to proclaim all that we know about Jesus Christ and his message to men of good will. Whether our knowledge is great or small, let us not hesitate to speak of Jesus and his Gospel! Each Christian is a missionary, and today our mission must first be carried out here, wherever we happen to be, with the neighbor who lives on our street or in our building!
Being a light of the world in ash and dust, every man and woman must carry out his or her mission! Each Sunday, the Christian is invited to nourish himself with the Bread of Life, as if he had already come to the end of his journey, but also, above all, in order that he might set out once again on the paths of the world, full of the Strength of the Spirit! May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary help each and every one of us to be true lights, for the Glory of the Father!