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Two metaphors

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The Sunday readings for this liturgical year are mostly from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, which includes the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5, 6 and 7.

The fragment from last week included the Beatitudes. They mark the beginning of the Sermon in which Christ offers us a summary of His moral teachings, a roadmap to live our lives as true disciples of His.

As you may recall, the Beatitudes are addressed to all because the natural law is applicable to everybody not just to Christians and, in principle, it is accessible to reason. Of course, because of the reality of sin, what, in principle, should be evident to everybody is not so evident for some people. That is why we need the teachings of Christ and His Church that enable us to better understand who we are and how to live our lives.

Our beautiful Catholic faith is not a moral code, but a relationship with somebody who is alive, whom we have found, who gives a decisive orientation to our lives, offering a sure guide so as to find true and lasting happiness, the one the world cannot give.

The last Beatitude, you may recall, was directly addressed to the disciples of Jesus, whom the Lord encourages in the face of calumny and persecution to come as they strive to remain faithful to Him, His commands, His teachings. This last Beatitude is also a transition to the specific guidelines the Lord hands to his disciples, beginning with the fragment proclaimed this Sunday, where He issues and exhortation to be salt of the earth and light of the world.

They are two simple, yet very eloquent images. As it is the case with every metaphor they allow for multiple levels of fruitful interpretation.

It is not difficult for anybody to understand the meaning of the metaphor of the salt. Food is tastier when it has the right proportion of salt. Just like table salt, which can go bad if it is kept for a long time becoming humid and useless, a Christian who does not live his or her faith in the daily affairs or withdraws to an interior space of religiosity, ends up losing himself or herself. As the Second Vatican Council points out, a Christian who neglects his temporal duties jeopardizes his eternal salvation.

We could also establish an interesting difference between the salt of Christians and sodium chloride. Not only we must add taste to the society we live in, but we must also be a kind of ferment of society. If we consider a saline solution, we would say that Christians not only must dissolve in the solvent of society, but we also have to cooperate so that the solvent becomes salt as well, finding Christ and His love so as to participate in that true life offered to us in Him.

The metaphor of light appears often in Sacred Scripture. Psalm 27, for example, begins thus: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” During the season of Advent and Christmas there appear many fragments from the book of the prophet Isaiah referring to the Messiah as a light illuminating those who live in darkness. The Letter of St. John makes frequent recourse to a contrast between light and darkness. Jesus Christ declares Himself to be the Light of the World. Those of us who through Baptism have been configured to Him, must also be the light of the world. That is what He tells us in the Sermon of the Mount we are hearing.


It does not really matter the intensity of our light, what matters is to radiate and mirror the true Light of Him who is the salvation of the world because He is God made man. Ultimately, He is the undying power source of this light.

While it is true that darkness and shadow surround us, we ought not to become discouraged. On the contrary, that fact ought to be a constant reminder that our Christian life must be a light that helps dissipate the darkness. Instead of lamenting the darkness around us we must ask the Lord to increase the intensity of our light so that the Kingdom of God that He announces with His teachings and inaugurates with His Resurrection, may advance in the world. His person is the Kingdom. Through His Paschal mystery he has brought all of creation to its consummation in God.

The first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah offers us an additional key so that our light may shine in the world, becoming a ferment that improves society, namely corporal and spiritual works of mercy such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, correcting those who err. They are the focus that increases the power of our light, the way in which our presence adds flavor to the world. St. Paul in the second reading reminds us that in everything we do we ought not to seek temporal power, appeal to force or mere human calculations. We must act pure and simply out of love for Christ because we have found Him, we have tasted His love and strive to live in Him who is the light that knows no sunset, who is present in our midst, whose presence makes everything new.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid