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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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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog When we go through pain it is easy to feel abandoned or forgotten, but suffering doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us, He does. Even Jesus suffered, and He was completely without sin.

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