Salt has had a poor ‘press’ in recent times. Its overuse can lead to health issues. Yet, salt is as old as the hills. Sodom and Gomorrah were being burned by fire and brimstone. Lot’s wife was turned to a pillar of salt by looking back when forbidden. Elisha purified putrid water by adding a bowl of salt to the water. To this day, when water is blessed for Holy Water, a pinch of salt is added to remember this.
Salt is added to give flavour to food but not used for itself. You are the salt of the earth, says Jesus in the Gospel today. It worries me that often I don’t add joy and goodness where I live and minister. It is a worry that maybe like the water without the salt, I can turn people sour. God forgive me if I do this.
Salt preserves food and stops it decaying. Long before the refrigerator was purring away to keep things cold and fresh, salt was the best preservative around. Once I remember cooking a fish and the recipe was to bake the fish in salt. It worked a dream and I was delighted. If I can help preserve people from losing hope and falling out of love, then like salt I am keeping life and helping it grow to the full.
Salt is used to melt ice and snow. Growing up as a child, where we lived had a very steep hill. In Winter, long before the local Council invested in sand and salt to melt the icy road and footpath, each family did the piece outside their house to help both motorists and pedestrians. Love shared can melt the hardest of hearts. Like salt, it needs to be spread around, and the most unlikely people grow warm and loving. They only then realise how lonely they were when not in love but indifferent.
Light is our calling. We are not a star in our own right but sent to shine the Light of Christ. If I shine the light on myself, then I have misunderstood Jesus. He asks us to shine the light in a darkened world so that others may see hope. He asks at time to shine a lamp like a lighthouse to offer the lost and the lonely a direction. At the Easter Vigil, the Light of Christ will be lit again in the new Paschal Candle.
Salt and light and what they stand for are gifts from God to show the beauty of the Kingdom being built on earth. Everything we have as Jesus’ disciples is grace. God gives us gifts to pass on to others. We have nothing that we have not received and nothing that is not His to give.
St Paul learned the hard way. Preaching in Athens, he fell into the trap of trying to be an orator, using Greek philosophy, rather than a proclaimer of Jesus. I love reading philosophy but is not key to the Kingdom. Paul changed when he got to Corinth. He gave up trying to match top orators as, “it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God has guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about Him as the crucified Christ.” Then he says something crucial, “Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in ‘fear and trembling’. [Mass today]
He learned the hard way from his failure. So also did I. St Patrick’s Province don’t list ‘A class’ Passionist preachers. But it is known who these top preachers are. I am not, nor ever will be, one of them. Like Paul, Jesus taught me a lesson long ago, during one parish mission. I still blush!
The superior of that parish Mission was an ‘A’ preacher and I felt so inadequate in his company. I tried to imitate his style. My sermon one night, even to me, was a total disaster. The ‘A’ preacher treated me with total silence afterwards. A few hours of Confessions followed. After her confession a lady asked me whether I had preached the sermon. I awaited her criticism. She stunned me - ‘I brought my 16-year-old son with me tonight and if I had written your sermon, I would not have changed one word. He wants to come back to hear you again.’ From that night I never tried to imitate any preacher. Since then, I preach totally believing that it is the Spirit who matters, not me. It can be scary because often I don’t know what the Spirit may say through me. Sure, the words are mine, but the message is always His. (Aidan)