I haven’t kept up. Is salt one of those things, like animal fats, that we were all being told were terrible, and now the medical profession seems to have changed its mind? Whether or not that is so, salt is in fact necessary for life. It is also something, that by enhancing taste, makes our life better, more enjoyable. Similarly, a world without light is one that would be neither good nor enjoyable!
Yet neither of these things is enjoyed just for what it is. We don’t sit down and eat salt, we don’t turn on the lights so that we can look at the light bulb. It is for what they reveal about other things that we value them. Salt helps us to taste other things better, light enables us to see them in their beauty.
So, when Jesus call us salt and light in today’s Gospel he is making a statement about our purpose in this world. In addition, light and salt may seem quite different things, but they have this in common. Light is invisible in itself but becomes visible by the things it illumines, and salt does not so much have flavour, but rather brings out the flavour of other things. So light has to be the light of something, salt has to be the salt of something. So Our Lord speaks of the light of the World, the salt of the Earth, that is to say, all the reality in which we live.
We then are made to be the means by which others see the goodness of the world and through that to catch a glimpse of the goodness of God. A few years ago, Pope Francis preached a homily on this particular Gospel in which he contrasted that call with the what he called “the culture of the ephemeral” in the modern world. He reminded us that we live in a world that is continually tempted to value the passing, the temporary, and to forget what truly matters and lasts. In this world then we must always remember that our lives are meant to point towards things of lasting value, to show our brothers and sisters the way to true joy.
Fr Chris Denham