This is a question that is bound to elicit a variety of answers depending on whom you ask. Possible answers would include: the mass media, popular culture, materialism, bad government policies, other religions, etc. A missionary had the occasion to put this very question to the great Mahatma Gandhi, “What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?”
Before the days of widespread high blood pressure, salt was regarded as a great good. It was salt that preserved food and kept it from spoiling. Salt was traded by caravans just as people traded gems and gold.
|President Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois|
In today’s gospel Jesus says to his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). But elsewhere in John 8:12 Jesus says of Himself, “I am the light of the world.” Who then is the light of the world, Jesus or His followers? Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. We are nothing without Christ. To the degree you participate in Christ's life, you too become light to the world.
The Christian in the world today is called to be salt and light. Now what do these mean? We are asked to be salt to our world because of Christ dwelling in us, preserving it from spoiling because of greed, injustice and lust, preserving it from decaying because of dishonesty, disloyalty and disrespect. We are called to be salt to the world transforming it through Christian values such as chastity, human rights and decency. We are urged to be the light of the world illuminating our homes, parishes, nations with charity, truth, peace along the way shown by Christ.
As salt we are called to be sweet disciples, friendly and kind, living peacefully with everyone. As light, we are called to lead others to Christ. Without light, we bump into each another and fall into the ditch. But light says: “Here is the road, take it; here is danger, avoid it.” Our duty is to sanctify the world.
But how do we do that? Take the path of salt and light. Salt must make the food taste better. If salt loses its taste then it is useless and can no longer make a difference. Light must dispel darkness. A flashlight with dead batteries helps no one in the dark. If believers have nothing that distinguishes them from unbelievers, then they are like salt that has lost its saltiness and therefore cannot make a difference. And what distinguishes us from non-believers but the life we live. As Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is the distinctive mark by which you can tell the true Christian from the false.
Secondly, both salt and light operate by associating with the thing that they want to change. Salt cannot improve the food unless it goes into the food and changes it from within. Light cannot show the way unless it encounters the darkness. Sometimes Christians think that the way to go is to keep away from getting involved with society. But if we do that, we are hiding our lamp under the bushel basket. To make a difference we must get up and get involved.
Disciples of salt and light must meet the particular needs of our time. Save the world from corruption. Dispel the darkness of
division and injustice. See the needs of the hungry, naked and homeless. Come to their assistance. The Lord's appeal in our first reading "Share your bread with the hungry and shelter the homeless and clothe the naked." (Isaiah 58:7) still resounds today and it resounds louder than ever.
Brethren, we will be called to make sacrifices and even face opposition from those who prefer to live in darkness and refuse to approach the light. St. Paul found success
only through the power of the Holy Spirit. "I did this," he wrote, "so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy, but on the power of God." (1 Cor 2:5).