Making Women’s Religious Life More Salty, Tuesday of the 10th Week of Ordinary Time (I), June 8, 1999

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Domus Sanctae Mariae Guadalupensis, Rome
Tuesday of the 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I
June 8, 1999
2 Cor 1:18-22;Mt 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth.” So Jesus said to his disciples and so he says to us today. “And if this salt goes flat, it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and stomped upon.” This admonition should, in the holy sense of the term, terrify us, but it should also challenge us. If we’re going to understand it, however, and truly be the salt of the earth, we have to begin by asking two critical questions:

(1) What does salt do?;
(2) How can we prevent it — ourselves — from going flat?

First, the purpose of salt. Salt is meant to keep things from corrupting. It was the preservative in ancient times. Once meat had gone bad, no amount of salt would be able to save it. So we, as salt, have to be preservatives as well. And preserve what? The faith and grace of the people God entrusts to us. And how do we do that? Good question. I gave a homily four months ago yesterday on this Gospel to the upcoming diaconate class and suggested to them that they should do it by their preaching. Even though we have two members of the Order of Preachers here, I would like to suggest, rather, that you, as women religious, carry out this crucial task above all by your loving.

Anthropologically, woman teaches man how to love, to love himself, to love others and to love God. And women religious fulfill that glorious vocation in the Church. If you look at Adam in the Garden, he had God and all of creation all to himself, he was in the state of grace, the state of original justice, and had immortality — everything anyone could possibly ask for — except love. He had God all to himself but he was lonely in his presence. God recognized that it was not good for man to be alone and hence created Eve. Finally Adam rejoiced that he had a fitting partner. Within the Church, women religious teach everyone how to love God truly: they teach young children in schools and promote so many vocations; they teach the suffering and dying in hospitals and thereby help them co-redeem the world and save so many souls; they teach each other in so many ways; and they in particular way teach priests, who without them would completely miss the point of the spiritual life. Men by nature work and build and, left to themselves, the spiritual life would be a self-centered Pelagianism. Women religious, in particular, teach priests and seminarians that the most important thing is not what they can do for God, but what God has done for them. They teach them the receptive dimension of the faith, how much God loves them, and inspire them to love God in return. If you have ever wondered why seminarians, priests and deacons at the NAC love to come down here, and love you, is because you, by your joy, your faith and your devotion, show us how to love God, and help thereby to keep our vocations holy and fresh. You remove our loneliness before God and preserve our faith.

Salt preserves. And we have to be honest: Women’s religious life in the states hasn’t been very saline during the past few decades. Too many women religious became more concerned with power than love, shed their wedding garments donned at their profession for bland clothes from catalogs, left their blackboards and bedsides to be “administrators,” left the pews for demonstrations outside of nuclear plants, and often left Jesus, their spouse, to attempt marriage with far too many homely-looking ex-priests. When sisters began to take their eyes off of Jesus, so did most of the rest of the Church.

That’s where you come in. Your vocation is, above all, to love Jesus, no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing. To show how lovable Jesus is. That was St. Therese’s greatest insight, that her vocation, that the vocation of every religious and every person, is to love. That’s the reason we were created free. Jesus is calling *you* to be the salt of the earth by your love. But to do that, you have to make sure your own salt doesn’t flat, which brings us to the second question:

How does salt go flat? And how can we prevent ourselves from going flat and making ourselves useless, worthy to be thrown out and trampled upon? Salt goes flat by being dissolved or substituted by other substances. You remember your inorganic chemistry. The only way you can separate the sodium from the chloride, if we take the most well-known salt, is to separate the two substances by water or by other cations or anions. Likewise, the way you, as salt, will lose your flavor is if you get dissolved or separated. From what? From Jesus. Think of it in this way: He’s the Sodium and you’re the Chloride. If you get separated from him, your salt will be useless. And the devil’s prowling like a bunch of Potassium Cyanide just trying to separate the two of you.

To keep your salt fresh, you have to stay more intimately bound to Jesus than the Chloride to the Sodium. You do this both in prayer and in your living out of the Gospel. But all of us do it par excellence here at Mass when we literally become one with the Lord through the consumption of Him in Holy Communion. We can turn to him today and ask him to make us true Salt of the Earth, salt that will never go flat, so that we might with Him keep ever fresh among his people the gifts of faith and grace he died to give them through his loving Passion, Death and Resurrection.

You’re the salt in Jesus’ recipe for the eternal banquet! And Jesus wouldn’t be calling you to be the salt of the earth unless he knew that you, attached to him, were fit for the task.