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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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Leopold Mandic: Western Christians who are working for greater dialogue with Orthodox Christians may be reaping the fruits of Father Leopold’s prayers.
<p>A native of Croatia, Leopold joined the Capuchin Franciscans and was ordained several years later in spite of several health problems. He could not speak loudly enough to preach publicly. For many years he also suffered from severe arthritis, poor eyesight and a stomach ailment.
</p><p>Leopold taught patrology, the study of the Church Fathers, to the clerics of his province for several years, but he is best known for his work in the confessional, where he sometimes spent 13-15 hours a day. Several bishops sought out his spiritual advice.
</p><p>Leopold’s dream was to go to the Orthodox Christians and work for the reunion of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. His health never permitted it. Leopold often renewed his vow to go to the Eastern Christians; the cause of unity was constantly in his prayers.
</p><p>At a time when Pope Pius XII said that the greatest sin of our time is "to have lost all sense of sin," Leopold had a profound sense of sin and an even firmer sense of God’s grace awaiting human cooperation.
</p><p>Leopold, who lived most of his life in Padua, died on July 30, 1942, and was canonized in 1982.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, give me the grace to be grateful and to use my gifts and talents to show your love to others so that when they see me, they recognize you living in me and loving them through me. I ask this in Jesus's name, Amen.

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