5th Sunday of Ordinary Time. February 5th 2017.
Is 58:7-10; 1Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16
Dare to be different for God’s sake
Jesus uses two images in today’s Gospel to describe His disciples – salt and light, “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.”
Two things about these two images. First of all, salt is different from food and light is different from darkness, “God separated the light from the darkness.” (Gen 1:4) Secondly, when these opposites are mixed or brought together, salt changes and transforms the food while light dispels darkness. It is not food that changes salt but salt that changes the taste of food. It is not darkness that chases light away but light that dispels darkness.
Called to be salt of the earth and light of the world, we Christians must be different from the world and aware of our power to transform the world we live in. As salt of the earth, we cannot afford to lose that which makes us what we are and different from others, “If salt loses its taste, it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” As lit lamps, we cannot forget that we have been lit and set on a lampstand for a purpose beyond ourselves i.e. to “give light to all in the house.”
But what is it that makes us different and gives us this power to transform our world? Far from making us appear elitist to others, what makes us different and powerful is not what we have or do; it is nothing but the message and power of the Cross of Christ. Because Jesus Christ suffered and died for us while we were still sinners, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead to share with us His own divine life, because Jesus dwells in us now and has made us belong to God as His beloved child, our lives must be different because He thus empowers us to live for Him now and for no other, “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth to remind them of that basic truth: they are different now because of the Paschal mystery. The Corinthian believers are living just like their non-Christian counterparts in the affluent Corinth of the time. The Christians were practicing the same depraved sexual immorality as non-Christians, they were also divided into bitter warring factions even in their communal Eucharist, and they were also having lawsuits among believers.
St. Paul did not come to them with “sublimity of words or of wisdom” but he came in “weakness and fear and much trembling” so that their faith “might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” It is not human wisdom but the gift of faith in the Crucified One that makes them unique and leads them to Christ, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Despite his weakness and lack of sublime words, God worked powerfully through St. Paul because he was not afraid to be different as one belonging to God, “He (God) who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through His grace was pleased to reveal His Son to me.”(Gal 1:15-16)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the face of all the forces of darkness and evil in today’s world and in our Churches, families and communities, it is so easy to get sad, angry, discouraged or just become uncaring. We have been mixed inseparably with the world. Most of the time, we let the darkness in our world change us for the worse as if we are not the salt of the earth and light of the world with power to bring good out of darkness. Our world changes us because we are usually unwilling to be different. Nothing renders us more spiritually impotent than the desire to blend with the world, to be accepted and liked, to belong and to be just one of the crowd. If the good in us is going to triumph over evil in the world, we must then ask, “Am I ready and willing to be different from others because I belong to God? Am I ready to think, judge and act differently because the Cross of Jesus makes a difference in my life?”
We must never lose what makes us different and powerful i.e. the life of the risen One within us. We lose this life through unrepented mortal sin. He has giving us our saltiness and our light as well as the situations that demand the use of these gifts, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”(Jn 9:5) We belong to Him now. Can we let Him use us by our generous response to His grace in a dark world? Can we let Him use us not for our selfish interests but for His own glory? Or are we going to let our fear of being different from others cripple His beautiful plan for us and our world?
This invitation to be different for the sake of transforming the world was offered to Mary at the Annunciation. She was not afraid to be radically different from all of humanity in an unprecedented and unrepeatable manner. She was not afraid to be the sinless Virgin Mother of God. Because of her willingness to be different from others for God’s greater glory, she became the means through which Jesus Christ has transformed us into God’s own children. May she help us to respond likewise and be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Our Eucharist is an encounter with Jesus and the powerful transforming grace that He won for us on Calvary. The cross of Christ has the power to transform all things, including us, our dark world and painful experiences, if and only if we are not afraid to be different from others for God’s own sake.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!