Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
This Sunday we continue our sequential reading of the Sermon on the Mount, the Charter for Christian living, the instructions the Lord gives us to live our lives according to God’s plan for us and find the happiness we seek, the roadmap to communion with Him who created us out of love.
After laying out the theme of the Sermon in the Beatitudes we heard last week, the Lord immediately resorts to two metaphors to describe the role that his disciples ought to play in the world. These metaphors cannot be more eloquent. His disciples, those who are listening to his authoritative teaching, are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As such, they have a mission to fulfill namely to do good, glorify God by their good works and lead others to God by their example.
Pope Benedict explained that “salt, in the cultures of the Middle East, calls to mind several values such as the Covenant, solidarity, life and wisdom. Light is the first work of God the Creator and is a source of life; the word of God is compared to light, as the Psalmist proclaims: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path””
Indeed, salt also adds flavor, seasons, disinfects, heals. Light dispels darkness, provides warmth, soothes, it is necessary for life to flourish. That is what we, Christians, those to whom the final Beatitude is directly addressed, are called to be.
The Sermon on the Mount is applicable to all men and women for whom the logic of the Beatitudes provides a path to true and lasting happiness. These exhortations, however, are directly addressed to those who are his followers.
On the one hand these metaphors remind us that we are not spectators in the world. We have to play an active role in the advancement of the Kingdom of God in human history. Progress in human affairs is not indifferent to the Kingdom of God. Temporal affairs are important. Our salvation transcends history yet it is realized in time. Therefore, what we do matters. Events in our personal and collective history are an integral part of the history of salvation.
On the other hand, these metaphors point to the ultimate goal of our existence which is to share eternal glory with God and highlight the fact that we are transcendent beings. Human history is not closed in on itself but ordered to something greater than itself, rather to somebody greater than itself, thus, the importance of the Sermon on the Mount which lays out for us a path of communion with God, the origin and goal of our existence, the Creator of the universe and the one to whom all of Creation is directed.
We are not of the world, yet we are in the world and we have a duty to make the world not just a better place, but a holier place that reveals the glory of God. Our baptism has configured us to Christ and has made us partakers in his mission to sanctify the world.
We need to live lives that are consistent with our baptismal calling. Surely we will encounter resistance from within and from without. We carry the wounds of sin and sometimes it is difficult for us to discern what is good and act accordingly. It is also the case that, as St. Paul acknowledges, on some occasions we do not act as we should and we do what we know to be contrary to the natural order. That is why we need the Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. When it comes from resistance from without, as the Lord warns us repeatedly, most noticeably in the final Beatitude, the disciple cannot be greater than the Master and those who endeavor to live the logic of the Beatitudes will encounter scorn, wrath and persecution on account of Him.
We ought to be unfazed by any difficulties from within or without but simply draw near to the Lord and actively seek an increase in grace. Recommit ourselves to live the Sermon on the Mount. We have received the gift of faith at Baptism and the Lord constantly offers to us all the assistance that we need to be holy, to grow in communion with Him.
The way we live our lives is important for our communion with God. Our Christian faith is existential. It has practical consequences for our life. It must inform and transform every single dimension of our lives. It applies to every role we play in society, to every aspect of our humanity, from the most public roles we may play to the most intimate behavior.
Each one of us, according to his or her particular state in life must work diligently to bear witness in the world to the logic of the Beatitudes, which means that first and foremost we ought to strive to live the Sermon on the Mount always and everywhere. Whether it is at work, in politics, in our academic endeavors, in our family life, we ought to live lives consistent with our baptismal call. We must live the Gospel values faithfully, even if that entails personal sacrifice and the opposition of the world.
If our faith does not take flesh in us, then as the Lord states, we are like salt that has lost its taste. We would be like a light that is hidden and does not illuminate the way it is meant to.
Pope Francis has noted that, interestingly, salt and light are always for others. Salt does not give flavor to itself and light does not illuminate itself and so it is with us. The gift of faith we have received is not just for us, it is meant to bear fruits of holiness for the entire world.
To live the logic of the Beatitudes, to abide by the charter for Christian living, the Sermon on the Mount, is to act consistently with our baptismal calling, to find true and lasting happiness, to give glory to God sharing in Christ’s mission, transforming the world so that it shows the beauty, truth and goodness of the Creator.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid