We continue this week with the next part of the Sermon on the Mount which Jesus began last week with the Beatitudes, showing us our destination as human beings: poverty of spirit, meekness, purity of heart, hunger and thirst for righteousness, peacemaking, mourning (in the suffering that love often requires) and even being persecuted for the sake of righteousness. This is our goal, and now today we have that summarized in one three beautiful images: salt and light and a city upon a hill. This shows us how the Christians operate in their unique time and place and the gift they are to be for their world.
Salt is called a preservative because it keeps food from going bad. It protects the good and fights away the bad, as far as edible food is concerned. However, salt is not too valuable in itself nowadays (though at the time of Christ it was quite valuable): but its worth was and is revealed when we have something good that we want to protect. Christians are called to do the same: preserve the good of our society and culture.
Light, like salt, is not about itself but what it provides toward other things. It shines into the darkness and overcomes it. So too must Christians bring good to where there is not sufficient good - to overcome evil with the power of good.
A city upon a hill was a witness to life, to unity, to the common good that people were created for. Christian communities must lift up and unite their cultures, contrary to the evil of volatility in our culture which is driven by the sake of consumer attention and increased revenue. Old media and new social media cultivate an environment that perpetuates itself in this volatility.
So HOW CAN WE CHRISTIANS BE SALT and LIGHT IN OUR CULTURE TODAY?
I see three ways that our culture really doesn’t get the Gospel
a. We have to be people who value forgiveness because in our society we don’t see enough of it. We don’t see people ready to ask for forgiveness because there are so many who don’t give forgiveness. We need to be people that say “that was wrong but I will allow you the space and the love that you need to change and grow and move forward from this.” We must recall the words of the Our Father – “as we forgive those…” and the words of Christ from the Cross – “Father forgive them…”. And we must live these words in our world, including making use of the sacrament of Confession.
2. SUFFERING (PAIN)
a. Secondly, our society really struggles to understand suffering. We so often get sucked into and wrapped up in the black hole that pain is, that we allow it to consume us. So much more for those who do not have faith, who do not know that there is a God over all of it and greater than this suffering. We need to show them how to carry the Cross because Jesus has done it before us. The stations of the Cross need to be carried in our hearts. We need to show them that suffering has meaning, and that Jesus can make their wounds something glorious and transform them with the power of love.
3. WONDER (MARVEL) – G.K. CHESTERTON and my cousin Leah
a. Enjoy the beauty of life – nature, people, and especially a life well-lived.
b. Grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. – G.K. Chesterton
People / money Simplicity / stuff-chasing Humility / Pride & Boastfulness Peace / hustle & bustle Taking back Sunday (boycotting Super Bowl parties – just kidding!) Love & Life / Evil & Death
ALL THREE OF THESE ARE SERVANTS OF JOY –
If people don’t know how to forgive, If they don’t know how to go beyond their pain to a deeper meaning, if they don’t know how to “stop and smell the roses” as they wonder at the goodness of life, then joy dies really fast. Christians must witness to a joy in a quiet life of wholesome goodness that builds our world up from beneath the radar.
And that Joy doesn’t come from a human source, but is EVANGELII GAUDIUM as Pope Francis says, the joy of the Gospel. Joy because we know that God is in control, that he has won the battle, that his love has conquered sin and death and no pain can compare with the eternity that is ahead of us in heaven.
And all of that Joy, brothers and sisters, is found here in the Eucharist. Here we see Forgiveness, the deeper meaning of suffering, and the marvelous beauty of God’s work in Christ. All of this is present here in the Mass. Let us ask Jesus to strengthen us from this Mass so that we can be salt and light for our world today.