This week, in preparation for Sunday's Gospel, we examine Matthew 5:13-16, part of the Sermon on the Mount. These verses immediately follow the Beatitudes, which tell us what qualities God wishes to be formed within us, that we may be called "blessed."
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
As we live out the Beatitudes we grow closer to the Lord, and become that salt and light. The world cannot live without enormous amounts of both, and as we grow in holiness we become as essential to the world as these things - made salt and light by the witness of our daily lives, which give glory to God by manifesting his character and sharing his tremendous love for all mankind.
If we say that we believe, but don't show by our lives that we have God's character and love in us, we are salt that has lost its flavor, or a light that is hidden, and useless. Even worse, a hidden light can cause others to lose their way—to become lost in the dark.
Light attracts; it does not repel. Those who love and believe in the Lord need to be willing to stand exposed, like streetlights—like beacons against the dark—and be vulnerable to the winds and ice storms and even vandalism, for God's sake and the sake of others, seeking light. Let others see something different in us, and feel invited by our example to pursue the light of Christ in their lives.
As salt is used as a preservative—and it was very valuable in Jesus' time—we need to be of great value to God's plans for the world. We gain value in our attempts to humbly model God's love and mercy to all, and not only when it is easy. In fact, especially when it's not easy. As Jesus said, there's nothing impressive in showing mercy to those you love; even the worst of us can do that. But to show mercy to the worst of us (and to the worst in us): that's what he wants.
This is only possible with God's grace. A quote that is attributed to St. Francis says, "Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words." You have to live it, as best you can. You have to be the salt shaker. You have to be the lamp.
When people tell me they don't think they could handle losing their sight, I think of it as the Lord giving me a chance to be his "spiritual salt shaker"—to give a sense of the flavor of it all. It gives me an opportunity to tell my story, and all the ways that God's grace has opened the world for me. I have written before about that prayer of surrender I said upon losing my sight, and how I "felt" God's presence in the hospital room; it seemed like the room was brighter, where before it had been so dark. Perhaps he was making me aware of his light in my soul.
Nothing in that room changed, and my physical blindness was the same, but I had changed—my spiritual sight just became clearer. I realized that the darkness I felt when I was depressed and angry, during those weeks I had pushed God away, was much darker than blind eyes. Turning away from him had felt so dark, and so empty.
The Lord did answer my prayers; He gave me back my sight—my spiritual sight, which was so much more important than physical sight.
He was always there waiting for me; his light never left, I had just blocked it out! When I gave it all over to the Lord, trusting in him, his light illuminated my path so I could "see." I try to share that light, and love with others—to be his "salt shaker" or his "light reflector" by attempting to live 1 Corinthians 13, "...and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
2/4/2011 5:00:00 AM