The similes of salt and light

Mt 5:13-16
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.”

A life that makes sense
The Eight Beatitudes in the Sermon of the Mount is followed by the similes of salt and light. When Jesus says to the disciples that they are the “salt of the earth,” he points to their function of igniting people’s lives. In the cultural world of Jesus, blocks of salt served as catalyst to ignite fire; salt was placed at the base of the earthen oven, and the dung patties were placed on top of the salt to allow the dung-fuel to get hotter, and burn more completely. This is what Pope Francis refers to when he appeals to believers to stop being “mothballed” or “frozen” Christians. They must make a difference in the world; their presence should serve as catalyst to ignite fire and fervor for God and humanity. And as it burns, it gives hope.

On the other hand, the disciples will show themselves as “light of the world” as they conform themselves to Jesus who is the “light of the world” (Jn 9:5). They do these concretely by their good deeds. Here we are reminded of the works that make Jerusalem’s light break forth like the dawn, her light rising in the darkness: breaking the yoke of oppression, removing falsehood and malicious speech, sharing one’s bread with the hungry, not turning one’s back on one’s fellow human beings (Is 58:6-10). In turn, Jesus’ disciples become light to others by listening to and putting into practice Jesus’ teaching, especially in the Sermon on the Mount.

In an Angelus message (Feb. 9, 2014), Pope Francis refers to the image of a Christian whose faith is like a burning lamp that brings light to the darkness: “We must carry the light of Christ with the witness of a genuine love. The Christian must be a luminous person who carries the light, a light that comes from one that is not his own, but a gift of God, a gift of Jesus.” He then cautions, “If a Christian loses this light, his life doesn’t make sense. He is a Christian in name only.”

First Reading • Is 58:7-10

Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

Source: “365 Days with the Lord 2023,” St. Paul’s, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: