Recently we remembered the event of the Presentation. Then Simeon took Jesus in his arms raised him up and declared him to be a light for the Gentiles. The same imagery is found in this Sunday’s Gospel. No one, it says, lights a lamp and puts it under a basket (some translate it, tub). The light in the lamp is there to allow sufficient vision for us, for everyone, to see. Clearly, the light is symbol of Christ which can never be put out in a darkened world, though it can be blocked out. But what about the salt?
“If salt becomes tasteless…” If? If ever. Salt can be stored dry for years and not lose its taste. It can seem to lose its taste in a number of ways; by way of contamination, dilution, and if we fail to sense the salt. The first two require external sources to effectively contaminate or dilute the salt. It is not that hard to see the connection to Jesus being the salt, like the light, and the contamination or dilution as the world which weakens the taste of the salt.
Our failure to sense the salt is likened to our failure to sense Jesus in our lives. Where the evils of the world could contaminate or dilute the message of Jesus, our readiness to receive and accept the message becomes like our awareness of the salt. Strangely though, the same cannot be said for the symbol of light. Our awareness of light sharpens in darkness. In the right proportions we largely take light for granted. It is only in its absence or flooding where we tend to notice it most.
It’s funny you know, I like to think that God has a salty pallet. What if the whole world became salty? I would hate it – who likes to eat pure salt?! God on the other hand, because of his will for all men to be saved – to be the salt of the earth. He must love the salty taste. If we all are a light, then we might more perfectly channel God who is the source of all light. Taking these to the extreme, salt eliminates the natural flavour of food as it increases. Light too eliminates distinction between objects if the light becomes blinding. These can be seen as the loss of self in the service of God.
Here we come to the point of the reading. Many people will be familiar with the salt and light analogies. But the last line adds meaning to them. Why should we be salt and light? So that seeing our good works, others may come to believe in God. That is one heck of a demand!
It is widely recognized that you don’t have the be “religious” to do good things. And I’m not going to follow that proverbial rabbit hole, but people do things for a reason. Why would someone who doesn’t believe in God do the good things God asks of us? For those that follow God, here is our answer. But with all this good going on in the world how do we become lights or salt? With so much good going on we should aim to be better; but not only better, more consistent; but not only more consistent, faithful. Commitment to God requires action so that through these actions God may be seen. Commitment to God requires we do these actions for God who is seen through them (as opposed to altruistic or hedonistic purposes). Commitment to God requires the loss of self at the service of God.
The loss of salt or the covering of light happens when actions occur for impure reasons or they are compromised to less than what they ought to be. Let your light of faith shine, and let your actions be salty. And may they never lose their saltiness.