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Bible Reflections View Comments

A Light Touch With the Salt Shaker
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014
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Jesus uses two images in today’s Gospel. He calls his followers to be light for the world and the salt of the earth. We’re familiar with the contrast of light and darkness. We might not be quite as familiar with the image of salt. It’s part of our everyday life. It has a place on every table. Some of us use too much, others avoid it for health reasons, most of us never give it much thought.

Anyone living in cold climates in this month of February knows the blessing and curse of the salt that melts the snow and ice, but at the same time leaves a thin, white film over cars and roads and shoes. If it’s not washed off, the salt can even become corrosive.

Yet, in today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the phrase “salt of the earth” to refer to his followers. In his day, salt was essential not only for seasoning, but also for preserving meats, fish, and other foods. Presumably Jesus’s disciples, several of whom were fishermen, would have been familiar with this use of salt. Salted meats would have to be reconstituted with water before they could be used. Too much salt rendered them inedible. Not enough would allow them to spoil.

Jesus warns his followers that if salt loses its flavor, it is worthless. One of the things Scripture scholars tell us about this passage is that while salt can’t lose its “saltiness,” it can become so diluted by impurities that it can no longer be used.

We’ve all known times when we become so overwhelmed by the day-today grind of our lives that life itself seems to lose its savor. Not only can we not be salt and light for others, we can’t even find anything in our own lives to perk us up. It is perhaps at these times that Jesus’s words strike a chord deep within us.

All of these things make salt a rich metaphor for our lives as followers of Jesus. We can think about how our faith adds spice and flavor to our lives and the lives of those around us. And we know that when we let our spiritual lives get diluted and contaminated by too many other things that we lose touch with the faith that saves us.

But we also know that if we become overbearing in our insistence on other people doing things our way — even if we’re convinced that our way is God’s way — it’s likely that we will turn people away from a path they might otherwise have followed. That kind of religious browbeating can become corrosive. We need to let the living water of Jesus’s example temper us.

Salt is a chemical compound, and one of the characteristics of such compounds is the way it interacts with everything with which it comes into contact. If we are indeed to be the salt of the earth, we need to be aware of how we’re interacting with others. We need to be sure that we’re bringing the flavor of the Gospel to others. Jesus calls us to walk in his footsteps, to treat others the way he treated them. We might need to have a little lighter hand with the salt shaker.

Like salting our food, living our faith allows for a range of differences. If we find ourselves in a peak moment when we hear Jesus’s words, they will be a clarion call to bring his presence to the world. But if we’re feeling less than bright and salty, we need to find ways to return to the source of our faith. We might need to get rid of some distractions and bring some new seasoning to our faith lives.



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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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