Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."
Many of you have started catching on that I have a slight (well, maybe a little more than slight) affinity for ‘Chips & Queso’. Most people who hail from the south know of this delightful, incredibly unhealthy ‘delicacy’ found in almost every Mexican restaurant in the deep South. As much as I LOVE cheese, I’ve learned that when I crave chips & queso, I’m not really craving the cheese, I’m craving SALT.
We all know salt enhances the flavor of any meal but Jesus uses it to describe us as Christians. The way we act, move, and speak to others should be ‘seasoned with salt’. When others interact with Christians, they should say, “There is something uniquely attractive and intriguing in them.” They should want what we have, the abundance of peace and joy and love emanating in our lives and in our relationships. My friend, Elyssa, is like this. There’s just something about her that makes you want what she has. I later roomed with her in an apartment in Chicago, only to discover she spent hours in prayer every day. She was so seasoned with salt, I couldn’t help but chase after God because I, too, wanted the peace and joy that flowed so abundantly through her life!
The truth is that most people don’t come to church seeking God, but seeking the effects of God – the peace, the relationships with others, the joy, the forgiveness, the love. Once they encounter God though, it all changes. Just like I don’t seek the cheese, I seek the salt, once I start eating that gooey queso, I can’t stop! Our job is to be that tasty salt knowing that once others get a taste of God, everything changes.
But what if we don’t radiate that peace, joy, and love? We lose the witness of Christ. The quote “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” has been credited to many people, including Mahatma Gandhi, but the truth is, thousands have probably echoed that sentiment. Growing up in Arkansas I heard that servers in restaurants would dread serving brunch on Sunday to churchgoers because they were stingy with their tips and demanding with their service. Others see us as legalistic, angry individuals who play the victim without loving the victims around us. Many see us as hypocritical, preaching perfection on many issues while failing to act on others.
I’ve had the pleasure of working in many churches and have seen the difference that a pastor who is ‘seasoned with salt’ can make in his parish. My first pastor was the spiritual advisor and friend to St. Teresa of Calcutta and her Sisters of Charity. He was gentle, kind, slow moving, and patient, with a hearty laugh and a joy that emanated through his smile. He was infectious. And in searching for what he had, many encountered God. On the flip side, I’ve worked for parishes whose priests were tough, angry, unapproachable, and impatient, who cared more about perfect liturgy than people. Their churches were slowly dying. Ever wonder why St. Gregory the Great is such a successful parish? Look at Fr. Nick’s joy and love as he greets people by name. Watch our arms extend across the aisle to say the Our Father. See how people hug each other as they are coming and going from Mass. Our Mass is seasoned with salt. But it’s important that as we leave Mass, we continue to season every conversation, handshake, look, and interaction with salt.
So, we must all ask ourselves: Am I gracious, kind, gentle with others? When I speak to my friends, is my speech seasoned with salt? If they found out I was a Christian, a Catholic, a St. Gregory the Great parishioner, would they wonder if maybe they, too, should come see just Who it is that seasoned me with this salt? When I drive my car with my rosary hanging, is my driving seasoned with salt? (still working on this one ;)) When I walk by someone, do I see the human in them, catch their eyes and smile out of love? Every action I take should be seasoned with salt, seasoned with the Holy Spirit, seasoned with the love of Christ.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me… Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. (St. Patrick)