“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
As I have said before, I’m not a football fan. I don’t usually watch the Super Bowl, and that’s even when the Patriots were in it year after year. But last Sunday evening, Super Bowl Sunday, I went down to my Masonic Lodge in Amherst because we just purchased an 85” television. Some of the guys got together to watch the game and I figured I’d go over for a while.
Well, I talked more than watched, but I also ate. They had every kind of junk food imaginable: pizza, hot dogs wrapped in some sort of pastry puff, chips and sandwiches. One conscientious soul brought a vegetable platter. It sat in the middle of our circle and I mean it just sat there. I think most of the vegetables went home at the end of the night. Most everything we did eat was not on any hospital menu. As a matter of fact, it’s probably the stuff that sends you to the hospital.
I do remember an unopened bag of Doritos that I asked a friend to bring over to the couch we were sitting on. I don’t know how many Doritos he ate, but by the time we left, the bag was empty. I don’t eat like that too often. Sharon and I are pretty good. But I think I ate most of a whole bag of Doritos.
When I got home and then throughout the night, I was parched. I kept drinking water. Even after I went to bed, I had to drink more water. My body was not prepared for all the salt I had eaten at the Lodge. The salt wasn’t saltier. I just consumed a whole lot more of it than usual.
I share this story with you because of Jesus’ warning in today’s Gospel that unsalty salt is useless and thrown away. But salt doesn’t lose its saltiness. Salt is a chemically stable compound. This is true now and it was just as true 2,000 years ago. The chemistry hasn’t changed.
Salt can, however, become diluted and lose its saltiness that way.
Jesus’ warning to us is about diluting our faith and the way we live our faith. We are the “salt of the earth,” He says. Salt was used in Jesus’ day primarily as a preservative. It kept people healthy because it kept food healthy. What Jesus is asking us to do when He says we are the salt of the earth is to help keep the world healthy.
What does that mean, that grand statement that we are called upon to keep the world healthy?
Today’s Gospel passage continues with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He has just finished offering the Beatitudes. That was the passage we read last Sunday.
It began with blessed are the poor in spirit, which means blessed are those dependent upon God. It means we realize we can’t do it all on our own. It’s a blessing to realize we need God in our lives.
Blessed are those who mourn is a statement about empathy, which is the truth that we also need each other.
This leads logically to the Beatitude that blessed are the meek. This is a pronouncement against self-pride, the belief that we don’t need anything from anyone, and even if that’s true or believed to be true, it can then give rise to the callousness that no one should expect anything from us. (Rugged individuals)
The opposite of this sort of selfishness is blessed instead are those who are not only righteous, but who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who need it as much as they need food and drink.
Blessed are the merciful, says Jesus, because then others will hopefully do the same, and the world changes person by person.
Blessed are the pure in heart, or put another way, blessed are the single-minded whose center is God, who don’t push faith to the sidelines, who don’t sacrifice what is right when a difficult choice needs to be made, who are willing to face the consequences rather than ignore their conscience.
Blessed are the peace-makers in a world filled with war mongering. These brave and often ridiculed souls are called the “children of God” by Jesus. Remember last week’s story about Jonah? He was the prophet who relished judgment and destruction and thought these were the marks of God. And remember also that instead God was compassionate and forgiving. This is why the peace-makers are named the children of God.
And then the Beatitudes come to their end and Jesus warns, “‘Blessed are you” for you will be persecuted if you live like this. In a world filled with insult, intimidation and violence, we will be blessed by God if we choose to live differently, to live deliberately as Christians, to live like Jesus’ Beatitudes expect. This is what it means to be “the salt of the earth” and to help preserve the earth.
(Not like JBap. Not retreat from society, but make a difference in society.)
Think back to the reading Maureen shared with us. Paul enters the city of Corinth, a prosperous, commercial hub of all kinds of activity. It’s a city that lived by trade. There was a lot of money to be made in ancient Corinth, if you played by the rules, and if you were more than a bit ruthless.
Paul enters the city and preaches Jesus, and Paul doesn’t dilute Jesus or His gospel. He comes right out and reminds them in today’s Epistle that he didn’t preach with words that would be hailed as wise and learned. Instead, says Paul, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” And the faith took root and it grew and it literally changed the world.
That’s what being the “salt of the earth” is all about. It’s about keeping the world healthy in a sense, and to do that we can’t allow our faith and our faith-lives to become diluted with so many other things that they lose their saltiness, that being a Christian isn’t all that different from the world.
When it comes to my diet, too much salt is not a good thing, but when it comes to Jesus’ imagery that we are “the salt of the earth,” it is a very good thing.
Let us choose in turbulent times to be steady in our witness to Jesus. Let us challenge ourselves to live the Beatitudes and know them as blessings not sacrifices. Let us encourage each other because what we are called to do and to be is hard, but let us also be optimistic because we don’t ever act alone. Jesus is always with us.
May we truly be the “salt of the earth,” and may we be as salty as the snacks at a Super Bowl party. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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