Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalm 112:4-9; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16


First Reading: Today’s first reading is often associated with Lent. As Isaiah 58 opens, God orders the prophet to denounce the people for their injustice. The people complain that while they seek God and perform religious acts, God pays no attention. God, in turn, points to their hypocrisy.

Psalm 112: Psalm 112 reinforces Isaiah’s message about how God’s people are called to be light in the midst of a dark world.

Second Reading: Today’s second reading complements the theme that unifies the other readings. In the selection we hear today, Paul continues to challenge some of the values of the world.

Gospel: After hearing the Beatitudes last week and Jesus speaking in the third person, He continues now with a direct address, teaching that their blessedness also entails the mission to be salt and light.

Reflection: Today we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. For most of the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks in the third person, saying, “blessed are they.” It is only at the end that he addresses the disciples gathered around him, saying: “Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you” (Matthew 5:11). He continues now with that direct address, teaching that their blessedness also entails the mission to be salt and light.

Although the phrase has entered a common manner of speaking, the teaching about being salt of the earth is somewhat enigmatic. Unlike the salt we keep in our cupboards, people of Jesus’ times extracted salt from mines and the sea. Such “salt” actually contained a variety of minerals, some of which were more pleasant and useful than others. Tasteless salt would have been the residue left over after the best salt had been extracted. Additionally, salt was more than a seasoning. It was used in the temple as a part of the daily sacrifices. It symbolized the perpetuity of the Covenant. Like salt, if the disciples became bland, uncommitted or unfaithful, they were good for nothing.

We are salt – we enhance others; we are light – we shine for others. The underlying message of these metaphors is that who we are as disciples always finds its deepest meaning in who we are in relationship to God and others. Just as salt and light are no good in and of themselves, so the good that disciples do is measured in their relationship to others. Discipleship is for the sake of others.

We can be faithful instruments – salt and light – when, as the disciples in the gospel did, we listen to Jesus and allow him to guide us. The first relationship we foster is with Jesus. This relationship ensures that we are not just any salt or any light but that of Christ. Disciples do not act alone but are always instruments in God’s band who, through God’s power acting in them, do good for others. Disciples glorify God simply by opening themselves to God’s working in and through them. Isn’t it interesting that in this gospel Jesus uses inanimate things – salt, light – to describe who disciples are? Disciples, however, are to be anything but inanimate. Through God’s power, disciples are to bring out the good latent in the world (salt) and are to show forth by their good deeds the splendor of God’s presence (light). Discipleship is being salt and shining forth in relation to others. It is being true to ourselves!

Question for Reflection: When was there a time when the light of another’s good works drew me to live the Gospel better?

Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.

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