Commentary on Matthew 5:13-16
Sermon on the Mount (cont’d):
We may be totally filled with the spirit of the Beatitudes but it will not do very much good unless their effects are clearly seen in our lives. To be a Christian it is not enough to be good; we must be seen to be so. It is not enough to ‘have a spirituality’ that fills us with a feeling of peace and tranquillity. The spirituality of the Gospel is essentially outreaching. We have not only to be disciples of Christ but also need to proclaim him.
So Jesus, immediately following the Beatitudes, presents us with a number of images expressing this. “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt is an essential ingredient in almost all cooked food (even sweet food) to provide taste. We all know what it is like to have soup that contains no salt; we know how much part salt plays in flavouring mass-produced fast foods.
We are to be like salt; we are to give taste, zest to our environment. We do that through the specific outlook on life which we have and which we invite others to share. At their best, Christians have been very effective in doing this and have had a great impact on the values of many societies and in bringing about great changes.
To be tasteless salt is to be next to useless. Salt that has lost its taste is only fit to be thrown out. At the same time, in the West we sometimes, too, put some salt on the side of our plate. That salt, however, tasty it may be is still not doing any good unless it is put into the food. And this is an interesting feature of salt, namely, that it blends completely with food and disappears. It cannot be seen, but it can be tasted.
That reminds us that we as Christians, if we are to have the effect of giving taste, must be totally inserted in our societies. We have to resist any temptation, as Christians, to withdraw and separate ourselves from the world. It is a temptation we can easily fall into and there are many places in our cities where the Church is absent nowadays. There is no salt there. In our commercial districts, in our industrial areas, in our entertainment and media centres, where is the visible Christian presence?
Other images used by Jesus today include being the “light of the world” or being a city built on top of a hill. There is no way it can be hidden; it sticks out like a sore thumb. And what is the point of lighting a candle and then covering it over with a tub? You light a candle to give light so that people can see their way and will not fall. To be baptised and to go into virtual hiding is like lighting and then covering up a candle.
Finally, Jesus gives us the reason for making ourselves so visible. It is so that people may see our good works? In order that we can bask in their admiration and wonder? No, but so that they will be led through us to the God who made them, who loves them and wants to lead them to himself.
It is for us today to reflect on how visible our Christian faith is to others both as individuals, as families, as members of a Christian group, as parishioners, as a diocese.
Are there people or places in our area where a Christian witness is for all intents and purposes absent. Can we do anything about that?