Mercy in the Form of Salt and Light, Tenth Tuesday (II), June 7, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of the Mercy of God
June 7, 2016
1 Kings 17:7-16, Ps 4, Mt 5:13-16

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • The extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy should influence everything the Church does during this ecclesiastical Holy Year, including how we read and ingest the Sermon on the Mount which we began pondering yesterday and will continue to focus on through June 23. Today we can examine how Christ in his mercy has become our salt and our light so that, having received that gift, we can become the salt of the earth and light of the world that he in his mercy for us and others he calls us to be.
  • In the ancient world, salt had three purposes. The first was as a preservative. There was no refrigeration in ancient Palestine and so to preserve meat or fish from corruption, they covered it with salt. This points to how Christ came into our world in order to prevent our corruption and has sent us out to help others from going bad. The second purpose was as a fire starter. There was no lighter fluid or starter wood for fires in the ancient world. What they’d do is take dung and mix it with salt and light these salted dung pellets on fire. Alone, dung wouldn’t ignite, but the salt would get the whole thing started and once the dung was lit, it could burn hot for a long time. (One of the things I’ve learned from my work at the UN is that in some poorer regions of the world, dung remains used as fuel). In a similar way, Christ has come into the world in order to light a fire on earth and longs for it to be enkindled in us so that he can send us out to light the world on fire. Christians are supposed to be a fire starter. The third function was what we still use salt for today, to give flavor. A little bit of salt can make a big difference between tasty or bland food. In a similar way, Christ came to give meaning to all experiences, no matter how bland or bitter, giving us his life to the full and instilling in us his joy. Christians, marked in this way by Christ’s mercy, are meant to bring this flavor, personality, joy and life to the environments we inhabit.
  • The second part of the vocation Jesus gives us today is to be the “light of the world.” There are two fundamental purposes for light. The first is to help people to see. The second is to warm. Christ has done both for us. He has come and mercifully taught us in such a way that we may walk as children of the light and be true children of the light. So the Christian life is supposed to be luminescent, like the lights on a landing strip at an airport on a foggy night that help planes land. In the midst of many walking in valleys of darkness, Christians are called to burn with the light so that others can follow us in following Jesus the Light of the World. Similarly, light gives off warmth, and Christ has come into the world to warm us by his love, to burn away whatever in us is frigid or tepid, so that we in turn may warm others by the fire of divine love. When we approach Jesus and when others approach us, we and they should feel like someone cold approaching a lit fireplace.
  • Today we see examples of the salt- and light-like properties of charity in the encounter between Elijah and the widow of Zarephath in today’s first reading. Elijah’s mission was to fill the ancient world with the light of faith in the one true God and to preserve people from the corruption of idolatry. The widow with faith trusted in what Elijah told her and gave all she had to feed him to preserve his life from the corruption of death even at the risk of her own, and God blessed her such that she and her son didn’t starve to death in the famine because the flour and oil didn’t run out for a whole year. And her example has become light until this very day: Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth praised her for her faith and her hospitality that catalyzed the miracle.
  • Today we come to Mass to unite ourselves to Christ, our salt and light, so that he can shake us throughout Manhattan and beyond and use us to ignite the world. He works a greater miracle than multiplying flour and oil. He multiplies his body and blood to preserve us from the corruption of sin, ignite us, give us his flavor so that we can bring his joy to the world, illumines our mind with his word and, as happened with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, make our hearts burn with the pure flame of divine love. He does us through uniting ourselves to him so that in tandem we may go out as salt of the earth and light of the world and fulfill Christ’s eternal mission of mercy.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
1 KGS 17:7-16

The brook near where Elijah was hiding ran dry,
because no rain had fallen in the land.
So the LORD said to Elijah:
“Move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there.
I have designated a widow there to provide for you.”
He left and went to Zarephath.
As he arrived at the entrance of the city,
a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her,
“Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.”
She left to get it, and he called out after her,
“Please bring along a bit of bread.”
She answered, “As the LORD, your God, lives,
I have nothing baked;
there is only a handful of flour in my jar
and a little oil in my jug.
Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks,
to go in and prepare something for myself and my son;
when we have eaten it, we shall die.”
Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid.
Go and do as you propose.
But first make me a little cake and bring it to me.
Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son.
For the LORD, the God of Israel, says,
‘The jar of flour shall not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’”
She left and did as Elijah had said.
She was able to eat for a year, and Elijah and her son as well;
the jar of flour did not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 4:2-3, 4-5, 7B-8

R. (7a) Lord, let your face shine on us.
When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
Have pity on me, and hear my prayer!
Men of rank, how long will you be dull of heart?
Why do you love what is vain and seek after falsehood?
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;
the LORD will hear me when I call upon him.
Tremble, and sin not;
reflect, upon your beds, in silence.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
O LORD, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!
You put gladness into my heart,
more than when grain and wine abound.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.

Gospel
MT 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
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