Isaiah 58: 7-10
1 Corinthians2: 1-5
In the first reading of today, Prophet Isaiah stresses two things in order to enjoy God’s favour. That is, the poor should be helped with food and clothing and the accusing finger should not be shown at others and one should not revel in iniquity. By offering a helping hand to the needy we become the light shining in the dark. The prophet writes that genuine fast ought to be for the liberation and service of the oppressed. The human problems resist theoretical solutions, but unexpected ways will be found when every segment of society willingly shares and no longer oppresses others.
In the second reading, Paul makes it clear that he rejects the entry conventions which display classical eloquence or wisdom as he proclaims the testimony which was about crucified, Christ. Paul wants the Corinthians’ faith to rest upon the power of God and not on the eloquence of the speaker. Paul accepts that he does not have the extraordinary marks of an eloquent and persuasive speaker. Paul attributes all credit for his work to God and to Jesus who has commissioned him to preach at Corinth.
Using images of daily life, with simple and direct words, Jesus makes known what is the mission and the reason for being of the Community. If you are a follower of Jesus living the beatitudes, you matter. You have an important role to play because you are the salt of the earth. Salt preserves and Christians help preserve what is good in the culture. Note that salt, to be effective, must be in contact with something. To be effective, we must be involved in where we work and where we live.
“You are the salt of the earth”. Salt is used to give flavor to food, to preserve it to purify and as part of sacrifices. Pure salt by its very nature does not lose its taste, but salt that is impure can lose its saltiness and consequently has no value whatever. In other words, it may become tainted so that its taste gets weakened. So when the disciples are told, you are the salt of the earth, they are to be people who would draw others together into a living relationship with God.
“You are the light of the world”. The light of the world imagery challenges the followers of Jesus to become actively engaged in their ‘good works’. Israel has always a role to be a light to the nations. The theme of bringing light to the people who dwell in darkness is a prominent theme in the book of Isaiah. Jesus himself is the light of the world and when we are told to be the light of the world our responsibility is to proclaim Jesus. “You are the light of the world.” The job description of a Christian is not only to maintain personal holiness but also to touch the lives of everyone around us. At work, we touch many people who do not encounter Christ in church. It may be our most effective place to witness to Christ. But we have to be careful about how we witness for Christ at work. We must avoid any possible taint of seeking self-promotion by proselytizing. And we always run the risk that our failings at work may bring shame on the name of Christ, especially if we seem to be enthusiastic about evangelism but careless in actual work.
The community must be light, has to illuminate. It must not be afraid to show the good that it does. It does not do it to make it seen, but what it does can and should be seen. Salt does not exist for itself. Light does not exist for itself. This is the way a community should be: it cannot close itself in self.
“City set up on a mountain”. The Old Testament envisions all nations coming to the city of Jerusalem to learn the Torah, with the result there being perfect peace. The images of “salt”, “light” and “the city set up on a mountain”, serves to define the identity of those who follow Jesus faithfully. That identity is firmly rooted in Israel’s identity as God’s people. The disciples must function in society as an alternative and challenging community. It is by their visible goodness that they will bring glory to the God who has chosen them.
The role of the Christian as salt and light in the world may be hindered or prevented through any choice to compromise or settle for that which is more convenient or comfortable, rather than that which is truly best and pleasing to the Lord. Moreover, the status of salt and light is something that follows naturally from the Christian’s humble obedience to the commandments of Christ. It is when we depart from the Spirit-led lifestyle of genuine discipleship that the distinctions between ourselves and the rest of the world become blurred and our testimony is hindered. Only by remaining focused on Christ and being obedient to Him can we expect to remain salt and light in the world. God of wisdom and love, source of all good, send Your Spirit to teach us Your truth and guide our actions in Your way of peace.