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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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