Salt & Light

by Dcn. Wayland Moncrief

At the National Prayer Breakfast this past week, President Donald Trump said, “The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.” He went on to say, that he knows numerous people that have great material success and many of those are miserable and unhappy people. This is truly an astounding statement, made by a person who has made billions of dollars many times over. But the common idea persists, an illusion shared by rich and the poor alike, that material success is the path to happiness. Trump continued to say, “I, also, know many, many people that don't have money, at least not to any extent, but they have great families and great faith, and to me those are the truly successful people.”

Contrast the fallacy, that wealth brings happiness, to the facts. In a recent study The National Endowment for Financial Education found that seventy percent of people that win big in the lottery go bankrupt within five years. And to those who hoard their wealth, like the rich farmer in the Gospel of Luke, who planned to tear down his barns and build bigger ones so he could live a more luxurious lifestyle, Our Lord says, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you”1

Candle

Contrast the fallacy, that wealth brings happiness, to the facts. In a recent study The National Endowment for Financial Education found that seventy percent of people that win big in the lottery go bankrupt within five years. And to those who hoard their wealth, like the rich farmer in the Gospel of Luke, who planned to tear down his barns and build bigger ones so he could live a more luxurious lifestyle, Our Lord says, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you”1

Fools. That is what Our Lord calls us when we are rich in earthly treasures or seek transitory pleasures, but are not rich in what matters to God. But to His disciples, to His followers, to those who seek spiritual treasures, Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth”.

I know of no greater compliment that can be bestowed on a person than being called “salt of the earth”. Such a person is solid, dependable, not swayed by flattery, and not prone to frivolity or exaggeration. But in saying, “You are the salt of the earth”, Jesus' words are much more than a complement. They have theological implications and provide directives for His followers.

Salt has many characteristics and properties. In ancient Greek and Egyptian philosophy, salt was a symbol of divine wisdom and divine energy. It was also a symbol of knowledge and purity. Salt was used in Jewish sacrifices and in reconsecrating altars defiled by pagan rulers. In the Book of Kings, the prophet Elisha went out to the spring and threw salt into it, saying, "This is what the LORD says: 'I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.'"2 Salt is still used in Holy Water and in exorcisms. In saying, “You are the salt of the earth”, Jesus echos His teaching in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.”3 And as followers of Christ, as His disciples, Jesus is using salt in theological terms, instructing and encouraging us to offer our lives as living sacrifices, to be pure, wise, and holy in His sight.

One use of salt is as a preservative. Before refrigeration, foods were cured in salt to prevent decay. Jesus is telling us, that as Christians, we must have a certain antiseptic quality to our lives and our faith: that quality of preventing corruption and to help heal our society. It is our responsibility to encourage and maintain “standards of absolute purity in speech, in conduct, and even in thought”4 . It is our mission to cleanse those hearts and souls infected by evil through works and prayer, by utilizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Another property of salt is that it enhances flavor. And as salt enhances the flavor of various foods, Christianity, properly lived, brings flavor and purpose to the world. Christianity offers an entirely different perspective, an entirely different view of life, that is diametrically opposed to the hedonistic illusions and failures that have infected society.

Our attitudes, and our lives, must reveal the goodness of Our Father in Heaven, so His love and Mercy are readily perceived, and allow the radiance of the Christian faith to be rediscovered. Jesus is telling us that if we truly live the Beatitudes, then mankind will return to God, and praise God, because of the joy seen in our hearts.

Then Jesus says, “But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? Though scholars offer plausible explanations of salt losing its usefulness and being thrown out, Jesus' meaning is clearly spiritual and clearly practical. When Christians live according to their faith, with irreproachable and upright conduct, they bring wisdom to the world, and give a deeper meaning to all human values.

On the other hand, when Christians do not play their part in the family, in society, and in the public life of nations, when Christians cease to be the salt and the light of the world that Our Lord asked us to be, then civic life is scarred by secular and perverse ideologies. Religious freedom is drastically curtailed. Closely held moral values are challenged. Family life is corrupted by materialism and hedonism Sexual perversions, vulgarity, and permissiveness become the norm. Even the biological value of parenthood is refuted, and the value of human life itself is degraded.

Such ideologies, such erroneous ‘moral’ guidance, has been steering generations of people, young and old, towards a nihilism that cripples the will and leaves it unable to cope with crucial problems. Great numbers of people are seduced: lacking the doctrinal and moral vigor needed to differentiate between truth and lies, between good and evil, and incapable of helping themselves. Lacking the influence of salt and light, they are unable to diagnose, or treat, the disease which infects them.

Many modern evils are rooted in the defection of the baptized. When 'salt has lost its flavor' evil has a free hand. Satan seizes the camera, the microphone, and the internet, and the voices of abortionists, atheists, pedophiles, terrorists, and corrupt dissidents prevail. The accumulated omissions of so many Christian defections has allowed Satan to distort and corrupt many of our most fundamental values. As a result, we have reached the situation where it is now necessary to re-evangelize our society and the whole world.5

Jesus says, “But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? He says “You are the salt of the earth.” Here, Jesus is not paying us a complement. He is giving us a directive. He is defining our mission. He is saying that we are the salt that restores the flavor of life. As His disciples, it is our task and privilege to bring a deeper meaning to human values and existence, and to bring His Divine Wisdom to the hearts of mankind.

Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” He is saying that our light cannot be hidden, that it must shine before men, that others may see our good deeds, so that they, too, will glorify our heavenly Father. Jesus is saying that we are the lamps, the lighthouses, the beacons of truth that lead the culture out of the darkness of delusion and a sea of despair into the light of faith, so that others too, may shine like bright lights in the world. As Elisha threw salt into the spring, saying, "This is what the LORD says: 'I have healed this water'”, so too, we are to bring the healing power of the gospel, and the mercy of repentance and forgiveness to the whole world.

Let us pray.

O' Blessed Virgin Mary help us, through our lives and our words, to be the salt that prevents the corruption, and the light which illuminates and brings warmth to all souls. Fill us with your love, and the love of your son, which fills your heart. May our conduct clearly reflect the lovable face of Jesus for all to see. Let our lives be models of your purity and grace. With confidence in your maternal intercession, inspire us to bring your son to all the world. Give us the courage and confidence to fight bravely against all the deceptions of evil. Inspire in us the desire to seek spiritual and eternal treasures. Inspire in us the words and wisdom that will transform hearts. O' Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord, who has guided so many saints, guide us, transformed in heart and mind, transformed in energy and purpose, to walk in the brightness of Your Son, bearing the light of grace. Amen.

Baruch Hashem!

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