With the celebration of Pentecost, and the recitation of Evening Prayer on Sunday night, the Church liturgical season has returned to Ordinary Time. One of the key focal points of the season is that the readings from the Gospels will focus on the life and teachings of Jesus. Our series of readings for the next few weeks will be a return to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In today’s account, Jesus encourages his disciples to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (cf. Mt 5:13-16).
This call continues to ring true for us today as his disciples. We too are to be “salt” and “light”. Salt has two major properties, preservation and flavor. Jesus emphasizes the aspect of salt being seasoning that one puts on food, which enhances its flavor. Light allows those to see in the darkness. How then can we be salt and light?
We begin by remembering that we are an Alleluia people, meaning that we are a people grounded in hope and joy because we who die with Christ will rise with him. Also, our faith is not just for us alone, we are to go out and share it with others, we are to bring Jesus to others. Pope Francis, in the very first line of his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, writes: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, emptiness, and loneliness.”
The Pope is not saying that when we accept Jesus into our life and develop a relationship with him that all will go our way, their will no longer be conflict or pain, and that our life will now be perfect. What he means is that Jesus is the very embodiment of love, and a light that leads us away from the darkness of our sin. Jesus is present and accompanies us in our pain and sorrow, and assures us that we are not alone. Jesus is the one who fulfills the longing of our heart’s deepest desire, he reveals to us our meaning and vocation in life. Jesus brings us hope and offers his hand to lead us through our darkest nights of despair and trauma.
We who have experienced the healing balm of the presence of Jesus in our life, have grasped his hand for strength, have leaned on his shoulder to cry on, and experienced the joy of our encounter with him, are then to be present to others in the same way. We are to be salt by bringing the joy of Jesus to all those we encounter. Too many who claim to be Christian, walk with a cloud of gloom around them, they have become salt that has lost their flavor. Instead of drawing others to the gospel, they have withdrawn within themselves and push people away.
A simple, yet genuine smile can work wonders for someone who begins to believe that no one cares or has the time of day for them. This is true for the recipient as well as the giver. If you have felt like you have lost some of your flavor, or if you are not sure how to be a light for others, next time you catch the eye of another, smile.
I am not the most extroverted of persons, and was more introverted in my youth. In my freshman or sophomore year of college, I heard a talk on cassette given by St Mother Theresa. She had mentioned reaching out to others with a smile. I still remember the first time of risking to smile at someone after hearing Mother’s encouraging words. I was walking up the side walk toward the parking garage on campus. I do not believe the person I smiled at returned the smile, yet I do remember that day as a key moment in my faith journey. Having heard of how to share the light of God’s love with another, and then to follow through with the courage to do so, filled me with the joy of Jesus, and it continues to make a difference in my life and hopefully, the life of others to this day.
How can we be salt and light in our everyday experiences? I would recommend beginning by smiling at those we encounter. May it not only be limited to those we feel comfortable with or like either. May we share a smile with those we may have had conflicts with, those we may feel a bias or prejudice toward. This is only a small beginning, but it draws us out from our own self centered focus and directs our attention toward another.
In this small act we also say to another person that we care enough to notice them, that they are loved and cared about, that they have worth and dignity just as they are in that moment. A simple, sincere smile can bring a little flavor to someone in a sour mood, as well as a little light to someone in a very dark place.
Photo: A smile for your day, may you receive it and pass it on!