Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 9, 2020—Year A
Readings: Is 58:7-10 / Ps 112 / 1 Cor 2:1-5 / Mt 5:13-16
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Today is one of my favorite gospels. It is short, concise, to the point, but overflowing with insight into the Christian life. Specifically, it has two wonderful images of the Christian life that are filled with meaning and lessons.
The first one is salt. Simple substance, extremely common in the world; but it points us to some things that are important about the Christian life. For one thing, it is white, and white is the symbol of purity. Father Sal and I and the altar servers all wear white albs. It is a symbol of our baptism, when we were cleansed of original sin and made one with the Body of Christ. But salt is also effective. It has a purpose – it preserves and enhances. We are called to do the same; to preserve the Christian faith and to enhance the lives of those around us.
The second image in the gospel is perhaps my favorite – the light. You hear it referred to all over the liturgy – the light of Christ. If you’ve been to a baptism lately, you’ve seen the light of a candle. It is lit by the celebrant and handed to the godparents with the words, “Receive the light of Christ.” It is a beautiful image, because most people have an innate fear of the darkness and the remedy of darkness is light. We use images of light to assist us in the liturgy. We have the candles around the altar. We have the candle beside the ambo to signify that we are in the Liturgy of the Word. Shortly, an altar server will extinguish the light at the ambo signifying that we are moving to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Aside from this imagery, what does all this mean? Isaiah spells it out in the first reading. He says that we are to “share bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” That’s what we are called to do – the corporal works of mercy.
This past Christmas, my wife gave me a book that has been very helpful as a source of homily themes. How many of you watched “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”? Fred Rogers, the main character in the show, was actually an ordained minister. This book, written by him, is full of his wisdom. I picked this book up after I looked over this week’s readings and found two things that broaden my perspective on the images of the gospel.
The first is this quote: “Have you had people who have touched you? Not moved you in order to manipulate you, but touched you inside to inside. Take a minute to think of at least one person who helped you become who you are inside today. Someone who was interested in you for who you really are; someone you feel really accepted the essence of your being. Just one minute, one minute to think of those who made a real difference in your life.”
I think if we dig deeper into this gospel, especially the image of light, this little bit of wisdom becomes important. Earlier today we heard a little about our Catechumen and Candidates and why they want to join us. Not one of them said “I saw these Christians working in a soup kitchen.” Even though this is good, and we need to do these things, it occurred to me after reading the quote I just read, people choose to become Christians because of a relationship they have had with a Christian. That is the crux of Christian life – relationships; relationship with each other and relationship with God. And through those relationships, those everyday normal relationships, hopefully the light of Christ that was given to us in our baptism shines forth to those who meet us.
A second quote I found made me think even more. Often we think about doing things, about actions – what can I do to help people. But in relationship, it goes both ways. Fred Rogers writes: “Loving has a lot to do with giving and receiving. Often it is much easier to give than to receive, because when we give we are in a position of control, but when we receive we are asked to receive what is given to us.”
Too often we forget that in a relationship it is our job to help others, to be there and listen. Sometimes in our pride and our insecurity, we forget to avail ourselves of the gift of relationship.
So brothers and sisters, as you go forth today, I challenge you to cherish your relationships. Cherish the giving that you give in your relationship but also cherish what you receive. Open yourself up to the light of Christ that you receive while you are giving your light.