salt of the earth
5th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year A
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: February 9, 2020
“Don’t spare the spices!”
I don’t know about you, but I have a slight addiction to cooking shows and the Food Network.
Shows like MasterChef, Beat Bobby Flay, Guys Grocery Games and of course Chopped are all favourites and they are fun to watch as well as learn a few lessons for our own meals.
One thing I have noticed, is that no matter what the show, no matter what the items they are cooking, the judges will always be upset if you don’t “bring the bold flavours” and the contestants are told “Don’t spare the spices!” especially the salt! (nothing worse than pasta that has been boiled in water without salt).
So, you may ask, Deacon Tom, is this a cooking class today or a homily?
The truth is that the lessons from the kitchen are the lessons that are the focus of today’s readings.
We are told in the gospel: “You are the salt of the earth!”
This focus on salt by Christ 2000 years ago was just as critical as it is today.
Why did Christ use the image of salt? There are a few reasons he probably did this as the people would have known how important salt was in their lives.
Salt is critical to our survival as human beings – we have 250g of salt in our bodies and we need salt for our survival. Sodium is critical to transport nutrients, oxygen and nerve impulse to our muscles.
Salt was and is also critical for preserving food, whether fish or meat for future use.
Salt is so critical it has been a subject and focus of battles and wars over the years including the great Indian salt march by Mahatma Gandhi!
For the Jewish people of the time of Christ, salt was also linked to purity, as the salt was pure since it came from the sun drying out seawater and it was that beautiful white.
And of course, salt adds flavour to our foods, so it was used in Jewish meals.
Salt was essential, so Jesus was telling the people that their faith life, their witness in the world was also essential and critical.
He warned them not to lose their saltiness so that they would be thrown out into the street.
Interestingly, salt cannot lose its saltiness just sitting there, it is a chemical, so the only way to lose their saltiness, was to get diluted – diluted by getting mixed in with dirt or water and becoming a minor component.
This meant not to get caught up in the worries of the world, or becoming worldly focused on money, power or prestige.
Don’t we have our own saying for this: That person is “salt of the earth” – it means they are down to earth; they are focused on simple and important things like the needs of others.
This is what we hear in the first reading today from the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is chastising the people in a way at this point in time. The people have strayed away from God and figured that they would just have a quick fast and that would get them back in God’s good graces.
But God tells them, through the prophet, in the line just before this reading “Is this not the fast that I choose; to loosen the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free”.
And in the reading, he tells them you need to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into your house, to satisfy the needs of the afflicted!
God wants us to rise up in action and make the world a better place – this is what pleases him more than one or two days of fasting!
God tells the people that if they act in this manner, God will make them and us like springs of water that never fail, He will give us strength and ensure we are protected.
God wants to support us, but He never forces Himself on us – we have free choice for how we live, but He does promise that if we make our relationship with Him a priority and show his love to others, then he will “turn his face toward us”.
St. Catherine of Siena echoed this same thought in her writings, she said: “I have placed you in the midst of your fellows, that you may love your neighbour with free grace, without expecting any return from them, and what you do to them, I count as done to Me!”
This reminds me of the song we sing “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me”.
We show our love for God, by loving those around us – not sparing the salt or spices but bringing God’s flavour to the world!
In the beautiful documents of Vatican II, we are told “all lay people, through the gifts they have received, are at once the witnesses and the living instruments of the church itself.”
Our lives are the spices, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the turmeric, and the salt of the earth that we are called to spread to the world!
In the psalm we have sung, we hear similar words: “they are gracious, merciful and righteous, they are generous and conduct their affairs with justice, they give freely to the poor” – in other words – they spread their spices widely and often!
We are told that the legacy of being “spicy” people of faith will be remembered forever! It is a legacy that will be passed down to the next generation.
This theme continues in the 2nd reading with St. Paul telling the Corinthians (and us) that the spice we spread is God’s sacrificial love that he showed us on the cross.
The love of one who was willing to give his life for others; not looking for earthly praise.
Paul’s power is not himself but the power of God (the crucified Christ) working through him.
We also don’t serve others and spread the spices, because we are great, but we take what we have been given and spread it to others to make the world a better place – God works through us!
If we are not making the world a better place, then we have become diluted and our salt has lost its sodium and needs to be thrown out. We are called as Pope Francis tells us: not to be lukewarm Christians, but people who are on fire for our faith, spreading daily the message of the gospel through how we live and treat others.
And when people see our good works, they don’t say it was us, but they recognize that God is a priority in our lives and give glory to God for working through us; others see a person who God shines through, not a gifted person.
What I love in the gospel is the phrase: “You are”, not they are, or I am, but you are the salt of the earth!
Not you will become or must work hard to be salt and light – but you already are!
We are salt by Holy Spirit in us! It is our calling to not hoard the salt or keep it to ourselves but instead to scatter it far and wide!
So I would ask one thing for the homework this week:
When you go out each morning, look at yourself in the mirror and say: “Don’t spare the spices!”
5th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year A
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: February 9, 2020
One of my past times is to watch Youtube. Usually in the evening, after I am done everything, I relax watching various things. Not sure if it is a good or a bad habit.
Anyways, recently I was watching a short film called The Nest Egg. In the story a man is seen dressed in a chicken costume walking to the centre of the town where he lived. He had bought dozens of crates of eggs. Then he stood in a spot and there was a box where people could buy an egg for one dollar to throw at him.
At first people were not sure what to make of this but eventually it started to attract long lines of people coming to throw an egg at the chicken man. Some hit him in the body, some hit his head and spilled down his face. We do not find out why he was doing this until later in the short film.
The only one that does not take part is one single mother who walks by with her little daughter but says that it is mean to do this. While this is going on we see that the young daughter is making a design out of an egg to be part of an egg design competition in her school. She is making a great effort because her single mother who is very poor is soon to have a birthday. Her daughter wanted to win the prize because it is the only way she could get this gift for her mother.
Unfortunately two other girls, real bullies, take her designed egg and break it. So, she desperately goes to the local store to buy an egg so she can make another one for the competition. She takes the little change she has down to the store, but she does not have enough to buy even one egg. The guy sends her down to the centre of town saying that she could perhaps buy an egg from the chicken man. So, she rushes down to him.
In the mean time we have found out why this man was doing this. It turns out that recently his wife of many years had died of cancer. They had no children and they had worked and saved throughout their life creating a next egg of 3 million dollars. He always expected that he would die first and wanted to be sure to leave enough so that his wife would be able to live comfortably. He explains that his wife was a truly good person, a person of real goodness. He had no kids, no relatives, so he had no one to give this nest egg away to. So, he wanted to find one person who was as kind and loving as his wife.
Instead he saw all these people coming down throwing the eggs at him with no concern for him, seemingly with no goodness in their hearts. He has finished this with the last egg being thrown when the little girl arrives desperately asking for an egg. He tells her they are all finished and says that he remembers her being there the other day but walking away. She explains that her mother told her that it was not kind to throw an egg at this man. Also, that her mother had very little since her father had left them.
Then the little girl explains why she wanted the egg, so that she could win the competition to get her mother something for her birthday. The man looks down at her with eyes that show he has finally found someone to share his nest egg with. Someone who has the kindness that his wife reflected.
Jesus says, “let your light shine before human beings, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” The Prophet Isaiah in our first reading tells us how to let our light shine in the darkness. Practical acts of goodness to those in need.
Who in our world has some light through your goodness, through your acts of kindness? Who is waiting to find one person who reflects goodness in the harshness of life? Who has some light through you?
We can summarize both Isaiah and Jesus with one question for each of us: Who is better off because you are on this planet?