• 5th A

    Posted on February 8, 2020 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Short verses: 5: 13-16 salt and light  


        It is notable that Matthew begins each saying with “you are…”   As the first word of the sentence “you” is emphatic.The metaphors, as an aspect of discipleship, are already inherent in Jesus’ followers, not something they are to strive to become. These are words of blessing, but also words of commission.

        Today our society is very conscious of the danger of too much salt. This was not the case in Jesus’ time.  Salt was a critical necessity. It was used for seasoning, preservation, purification, and judgement. In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas we have two rich natural salt deposits. Warring Indians declared a truce when they were gathering salt. Spanish explorers claimed the salt deposits for the king of Spain. There was a “salt train” to Mexico. Ships from Spain, France and England returned to their European ports loaded with salt after bringing supplies to their colonies in the New World.

        Various interpretations are given in applying these words to Jesus’ disciples. Under the rigors of persecution some might be losing their “saltiness” in proclaiming the Gospel. Verse 13 ends with a sober warning. However the importance of salt also gives us an insight into how precious we are in God’s sight.

        We have heard the song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine….” Children sing it with delight. The message however is profound. Our care of others will bring out the best of a world that has turned sour. The Christopher saying speaks of what we should be careful to do “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

        The metaphors of being the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” are so well known, it may surprise us to know that only Matthew Joins these two sayings.  He is also unique in equating the disciples with light. In John’s Gospel, one of Jesus’ “I am” sayings is: “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

    The verses chosen from Isaiah for this Sunday seem to be chosen to make a connection with the Gospel’s mention of light:

    Then your light shall break forth like the dawnand 

    then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
    and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

    However, this limited selection seems to me to do violence to Isaiah’s message for us.


    To deeper appreciate the selection from Isaiah chosen for today we must see it in the wider context. What comes prior in Isaiah seems to me to speak of what the Gospel says about Salt. 

    58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
        Raise your voice like a trumpet.
    Declare to my people their rebellion
        and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
    For day after day they seek me out;
        they seem eager to know my ways,
    as if they were a nation that does what is right
        and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
    They ask me for just decisions
        and seem eager for God to come near them.
    ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
        ‘and you have not seen it?
    Why have we humbled ourselves,
        and you have not noticed?’

    “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
        and exploit all your workers.
    Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
        and in striking each other with wicked fists.
    You cannot fast as you do today
        and expect your voice to be heard on high.
    Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
        only a day for people to humble themselves?
    Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
        and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
    Is that what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the Lord?

    “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
    to loose the chains of injustice
        and untie the cords of the yoke,
    to set the oppressed free

        and break every yoke?


    Yet what follows in the context contains such great promises: 

    The Lord will guide you always;
        he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
        and will strengthen your frame.
    You will be like a well-watered garden,
        like a spring whose waters never fail.
    12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
        and will raise up the age-old foundations;
    you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

        Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.


    Valerie Luna Serrels offers these reflections on the reading from Isaiah.

    In Empire Baptized, Wes Howard-Brook refers to these two worlds in the context of what a society governed by YHWH would look like, with Jesus “proclaiming the reign of God in accordance with the pattern of the ‘religion of creation’ while denouncing the counterfeit ‘religion of empire’.”A religion of creation is rooted in the marrow-deep connection to self, other, the natural world, and therefore to God. Howard-Brook notes that in a religion of creation the place of sacred encounter is with the Earth (mountains, rivers, wilderness), table fellowship and human intimacy. Flowing out of this rootedness, the basic social and economic structures are egalitarian, based on the idea of kinship, gift, and barter. Diametrically opposed, a religion of empire finds sacred encounter in the temple and the basic social and economic structures are hierarchical patronage, money, and debt.

    Isaiah calls out the counterfeit, The people of Israel lost their identity. And their religion. There’s soul work required of the Jews, and of us, to see our misplaced loyalties and values, to notice the ways that the religion of empire influences our worldview and behavior.

    This is why we need the prophets – to call us back to ourselves, to realign ourselves with God and the land, leading to the justice and love upon which our religion is based.

    The disconnect for the people of Israel, and for all people who live in a civilization associated with empire, is located in the soul, or in the lack of soul development.

    This urgent and unordinary season calls us to repentance, to re-examine who we say we are and what religion we practice.

Comments are closed.