05 February 20175 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday of the Year - A Cycle - Matthew 5:13-16

A teacher asked a boy to define salt. The pupil hesitated. Finally he stammered, "Salt is what makes French Fries taste good when you sprinkle it on." Gandhi said, "If I had ever met someone who was a genuine Christian, I would have become one immediately."

Do you get the feeling that but a handful of us have accepted Jesus's admonition that we are the salt of the earth?

You may reply there are millions who are that salt. If so, what was Mr Gandhi's problem? Why is it every Catholic group in whatever country in the last quarter of the 20th century could only find one Catholic worthy of an award? She was the ill, elderly, and exhausted Mother Teresa. The poor thing was forever flying over the Himalayas to pick up one more piece of Steuben crystal. She must have dreaded hearing the phone ring in her Calcutta office. With a billion plus Catholics in the world, there should be thousands of Mother Teresas in each country.

A quick check supports the contention this is a bearish period for Catholic Christians. Think pedophilia among priests. Check that the Nazarene did not say we should become the salt of the earth, but that we are the salt of the earth. He wasn't giving us a locker room pep talk. He was telling us the way He wanted to find us daily.

In Jesus' time, salt was so valuable it was used as salary for the Roman soldiers. It was called white gold. Christians should be as valuable. The whiteness of salt suggests purity. Nathaniel Hawthorne penned: "Salt is white and pure. There is something holy about salt." The Roman opined salt had to be pure because it was given to us by the sea and sun.

Purity is nowadays not politically correct. Our morals would make Nero's Rome blush. Incidentally, purity in this context is not confined to that three letter word that begins with "s" and ends in "x." Rather, it runs the whole gamut of moral questions. Have you noticed how many are afraid of the word "moral" anymore and so substitute the blander word "ethical"? One mark of contemporary culture is the lowering of standards.

Think of the college student whose heavy tuition is being paid by parents or taxpayers. And the student in question does nothing more than party hearty. Think of the person who gives less than a day's work for a day's salary. Or the plumber or carpenter who does inferior work. Or the woman who litters or refuses to pick up after her dog and so on ad infinitum.

Such people may be loved by their mothers, but they are hardly the salt of the earth that Christ speaks of today. Swinburne has pronounced an incorrect judgment on Christ: "Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world hast grown gray from thy breath." It is His followers who have the bad breath. Salt gives flavor to food. If you have any doubts, call your friends placed on a salt free diet. They search for a salt substitute. Think of the boy and his salted French Fries. We can survive without gold but not without salt.

Genuine Catholics play the same role as salt in the society about them. They give tang to the lives of other people. They cause fellow pilgrims about them to walk tall. They compel the rest of us to become more attractive Christians. Those of us worth our salt make others thirsty for Christ. (Unknown)

Salt has no value if it is locked away. The Nazarene invites us to give flavor and pizazz to people just by living among them. There is no authentic substitute for the real thing. A faux Christian spoils everybody and everything.

I like the style of one priest confessor. Whenever penitents come to him with long faces, he tells them their penance is to smile often that day. His penance was prompted by the report that the average four year old laughs four hundred times a day and adults but fifteen. In a world worn down by worries, Christians should be calm. In a society overdosing on antidepressants, we should be joyful. Let the present generation of Christians make Friedrich Nietzsche eat his words. He wrote, "Christians do not reflect on their faces joy of redemption." Erase those frowns. Of all people we Christians should smile.

Our purpose on earth is not to get used to the dark but to shine as lights. We should replace glow-in-the-dark statues with glow-in-the-dark Christians. (Unknown) Don't be afraid of this task. The Bible tells us 365 times not to be afraid - one for each day of the year. Think God is telling us something? 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Let His Light Shine

Recently I was at a restaurant where the waiter was from India. I asked him what part of India he was from and he said, "Goa." "Goa," I said, "My guess is that you are Catholic." He said, "I certainly am," and gave me a thumbs up. We realized that we have something wonderful in common: our faith. We are not just members of a club or some sort of association, we are intimate parts of God's plan for the world. We are Christians. We are Catholics. We exist to bring God's Light to the world. Our faith is not just a matter of what we believe. Our faith is not just a matter of how we live our lives. Our faith is the reason why we exist. We exist so the world might find its salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Faith is a matter of what we are and who we are. What are we? We are children of God, sons and daughters of God. God, the Creator of the Universe, the One who knows what is happening on remote planets in solar systems millions of light years away from here, looks at us and says, "Those are my children. They entered my family when they were baptized. I did not just give them life. I gave them my life."

Many of us are confirmed. The Lord looks on the confirmed and says, "These are the leaders of my people. They are my front line. I am giving them my Power, my Holy Spirit so they can bring others to me. They are mine and I am theirs."

What are we? We are here because we are children of God.

And yet we are more than just members of his family. We are unique individuals. Who are we? Each of us is an individual, a unique reflection of God. Each of us brings His Presence into the world in a way the world never experienced before and will never experience again. Do you realize that God knows who you are? I am sure that there are times that you feel that no one really knows you. No one really understands you. I often feel the same way. We are right, and yet we are wrong. Even if you are married, your husband or wife really does not know you, what it is like to be you.

Many of us have close friends, people we have been friends with since kindergarten. Our best friend do not really know us. You are my favorite people. I have laughed and cried with some of you. You have prayed for me when I was sick and I pray for you every day. If someone were to ask you if you knew a Fr. Joe, you would say, "Yes," some of you would say, "Very well." But you really don’t know what it is like to be me. Nor do I know what it is like to be you. But God knows us. God understands us. In fact, God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows the role that each of us has in His plan for the salvation of the universe.

Now, fathom the unfathomable with me. Our lives mean more to God than they mean to anyone else in the world, including our parents, your husbands and wives, your best friends. Why? Why has God bothered with us? Why does He love us so much? It is all because He sees Himself in each one of us. He sees His Son. He loves us like a good parent loves his or her child, unconditionally, for whom that child is.

He sees His Light. God sees the Light of Christ in each of us. "Now, take that Light," the Gospel tells us, "and illuminate the world." The Light we have been given is meant for others to escape the darkness of the world. Did you listen to that first reading: "Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them an do not turn your back on your own, then your light shall break forth like the dawn.." Jesus says, "You are the Light of the world, your light must shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father."

So what are we? We are children of God. Who are we? We are each unique reflections of God on earth. And why do we do what we do as Christians, as Catholics? Our actions in words and deeds, our reaching out to others as well as our union with God, our charitable life and our prayer life, are ways that we lead others to glorify our Heavenly Father.

May we have the courage to be the people God created us to be.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
5 Ordinary Time
Hidden Wisdom Week 2- Salt and Light
(February 5, 2017)

Message: You and I may not have such dramatic moments to be salt and light. But even in our abundant society we encounter the abandoned and lost - perhaps in our own families.

Last week we began a homily series titled Hidden Wisdom. St. Paul tells us today that he did not come with sublime words but with power - God's Spirit. Paul reveals his determination to preach only Jesus and him crucified.

We had an example of Hidden Wisdom last Sunday in the Beatitudes. If taken as ordinary wisdom they seem sentimental and out of touch. But when we see them as hidden wisdom - a wisdom that shows our relationship with Jesus crucified - then they become brilliant and practical. Today we see that hidden wisdom in practice. Jesus tells us to become salt and light. Isaiah explains that if we share bread with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless, it will be like dawn breaking.

I saw that when I was in Peru. Not that I did anything heroic. In fact most of the 4 weeks I spent feeling sorry for myself. I was struggling with some illness that took away my voice and when I finally got back a raspy voice, I would start coughing before I finished a full sentence. Well, in the final week I had scheduled an early morning Mass with the St. Teresa of Calcutta Sisters. The last time I celebrated Mass for them was 45 years ago in Rome shortly after I was ordained. This time in Peru I had cancelled many events but I couldn't back out on the Mother Teresa Sisters without considering myself the biggest wimp in the Western Hemisphere (no comments, please). So I rasped my way through the Mass. After Mass one of the Mary Bloom Center volunteers asked me to visit an abandoned man in the countryside - to give him the anointing of the sick. In my self-pitying mood I thought, "I might need it more than he does." I'm glad I held my piece.

When we finally arrived at the small adobe hut, we found a man in terrible circumstances: 84-years-old, abandoned by his one son, he was dependent on the charity of strangers. He described the pain he was experiencing in his body. I hacked my way through the anointing rite but suddenly my pain seemed small and my blessings enormous. We went back to the Mother Teresa Sisters. They said they would take the man into their home as soon as possible.

The man's name? Victor! Could any name more represent the Hidden Wisdom of Christ Crucified? The man seemed defeated like Jesus on the cross. But he is the Victor. As St. Paul says not the wise, not the eloquent, not the powerful but those ho embrace the hidden wisdom of the cross.

This hidden wisdom becomes apparent in salt and light. The Mother Teresa Sisters - and I have to say Luz Marron, director of the Mary Bloom Center - are salt and light, bringing Victor out of abandonment and showing his true dignity: not a burden on society but a man created in God's image and redeemed by Jesus.

You and I may not have such dramatic moments to be salt and light. But even in our abundant society we encounter the abandoned and lost - perhaps in our own families. Next week Jesus will give some practical guidance on being salt and light - things even you and I can do, although it may cost. Today let's consider the challenge of Stewardship: share bread with the hungry and shelter the homeless. Then, says the Prophet Isaiah, "your light shall break forth like the dawn, your wound shall quickly be healed, light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 5: 13-16

Gospel Summary
Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He adds, ". . . your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.

Life Implications
If we were to witness the events of this passage being acted on stage, I think we would find them humorous: Jesus telling a motley group of puzzled followers, many illiterate, that they are the light of the world. The scene reminds me of an experience in a freshman religion class when I suggested that it was they who would determine how our postmodern world ultimately would be defined. We all laughed upon hearing a clearly audible whisper, "O God." These freshmen were not quite sure they were up to the task. And when we hear the gospel passage in church on Sunday, we assume that Jesus is talking to those first disciples, surely not to us. Deep down, like my freshman class, we know we are not capable of being the light of the world.

The passage becomes good news, and not a cause for discouragement, only if we hear it in the context of the gospel that Jesus proclaims. Jesus himself is the light of the world. He is so empty of self and so transparent to the divine action in his humanity that he will be called Emmanuel, which means "God is with us." It is only because we, through the gift of the Spirit, become one with Christ, that we can be the light of the world, never by our own light alone. The life implications of this gospel are practical and profound. The optimism of the great song "We Shall Overcome" is too easily shattered when racism or the violence of any injustice, in fact, seems to overcome the light. An invincible hope is possible only when we realize that it is through divine action that the kingdom of God is established in this world. "We Shall Overcome" is a song of unconquerable hope when the "we" includes "God is with us.

The conclusion of the eucharistic prayer of the Mass is an expression of the deepest truth of Christian faith: "Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever." Jesus is saying to you and me: "â?¦your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Modern
Matthew 5: 13 : 16

In this Gospel Jesus uses very common images to teach the basic characteristic of being his follower; salt and light. He uses these in the present tense telling those gathered that they are the salt of the earth, and they are the light of the world. This is not something they should work to achieve, but should work to maintain. The followers of Jesus season and brighten their lives and the world. The teaching of Jesus is for them not to let this diminish or they risk becoming flat and dark.

Over the years I have seen the lives of people changed when they personally encountered the Lord. I have seen people who thought they were "good" Catholics and were fulfilling the minimum requirements turn into people whose faith became so alive and filled with joy when their relationship with the Lord truly became a love relationship. They experienced the love of God in a way they had not before and that love transformed and deepened their faith in such a manner that it emanated from them. Their presence in a room or gathering transformed it because they seasoned and brightened it with God's presence. This, Jesus tells us, should be the norm for his followers. How can we go about becoming more seasoning and a brighter light for those around us? First of all It would be a mistake for us to strive to be salt and light so that others may see Christ in us. Becoming and growing as salt and light comes from our longing to have a deeper relationship with God. When our lives become Christ centered we become more seasoned and brighter within. Christ's presence becomes so strong within that those around us are affected by our very presence. Our words, our actions, and our presence itself reflects the presence of God in our lives.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us of some very specific attitudes and actions that take place when the light of the Lord is within us. We become more aware of the needs of those around us and more desirous of doing something about them, and he gives us a list somewhat similar to the corporal works of mercy. This then leads us to more awareness of the attitudes within us that are not God-like. We will work to remove oppression, false accusations and malicious speech. With this inner transformation the light will shine so brightly within us that the darkest gloom will seem like high noon.

The Winter doldrums and Post Christmas blues are presently affecting many people in various ways, and New Year's resolutions are slipping away. This Gospel is a good one for those who are feeling the blues, as well as those who have grown complacent in living our faith. As followers of Jesus we can rightly claim that he is telling us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are salt and light. I think that it is something special for Christ to tell us this. He sees the faith within our souls, the love within our hearts, and our desire to grow closer to him. We are reminded who we are, and can bask in the compliment. We are also cautioned not to let the light grow dim or the salt insipid. Life would be so bland and dark without salt and light. May we focus on the compliment of who we are in the eyes of God, and continue to grow in our relationship with God so that we will become brighter lights and more savory seasoning. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Ordinary Time
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS
The Gospels in these weeks of Ordinary Time lead us through the Sermon on the Mount. Last Sunday we looked at the Beatitudes and today we begin with the main body of the text.

Jesus gives us a couple of startling images: You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world. These words are clearly addressed to those who have decided to become his followers and as with the rest of the text of this most famous of all sermons Jesus is unfolding to the people just what being a follower of his is going to mean.

These two expressions, salt of the earth and light of the world, have become part of our language. They are metaphors that anyone speaking English anywhere in the world might use in the context of ordinary speech without knowing where they come from. Let us take the first of these images and unpack it. Being the salt of the earth means that the disciple of Christ brings flavour or zest or something tangy to the world.

Adding salt to food brings out the flavour, it stops what we eat from tasking bland and unappetising. By telling us that his disciples are salt for the earth Jesus is stating that they bring out the essential goodness in the world so that it is found to be appetising. This is a very interesting image and makes it clear that the role of the Christian is to make the world a better place; our task is to make it more interesting and appealing.

This is something important. We see more and more in a Western society that is increasingly distant from God that many people experience meaninglessness. The effects of this are seen in gun-massacres and in the increase in suicide and the superficial way so many people seem to be leading their lives.

We find ourselves living in a world which lacks meaning and direction and we realise that Christ is telling his disciples that they ought to be providing the world with this important element. It is their task to bring meaning and purpose to the world, to make life appealing and to demonstrate that a life with God life is infinitely more rewarding than one without him.

An interesting thing is that salt has also long been regarded as a substance that counteracts evil. We know that from the most ancient times salt was used to preserve food and we only have to think how salt is used to conserve hams and other meats to realise the importance of this attribute. It is only a short step from preserving food from decay to seeing that salt may have a role in fighting all sorts of evil.

In the Church salt is commonly put in water before it is blessed by the priest for the use of the people. We do this here at St Joseph’s with the Holy Water in the stoops by the doors of the Church.

We can take all of these aspects, the provision of flavour, the preservation from decay and the ability to drive out evil, and we see that they can all can be considered essential aspects of the role of the disciple. This makes salt a very relevant metaphor for a Christian living in the world.

You are the light of the world, says Jesus. This second very striking image gives us another glimpse into the duties of a disciple of Christ. We know very well how important light is and we can imagine how much more important it was in the age before artificial light. The presence of daylight is what determined whether human beings could go about their business or not. Without sunlight, we were condemned to stay in our homes using only very dim and smoky lamplight.

For a disciple of Christ to be compared to the light of the world puts them in an extraordinary position for it is light that enables us to perceive the world around us. Light is liberating; for it is only with light that we can see the world and all that is in it. We know too that it is light that causes growth and indeed in many cases it is light that heals. It would be impossible for us to think of living in a world without light. So, it is a very apt metaphor for the disciple of Christ who plays a highly significant role in the world; it is through the insight that the disciple provides that man sees the world as it truly is. Of course, it is Christ himself who is pre-eminently the Light of the World. It is he who brings the truth of God into the world and it is through his sacrifice on the Cross that mankind is healed from sin and division. We as his disciples play our own role in spreading his light, his insight, to the people around us.

We do this primarily by our use of words and example. It is good test for us to see if our words bring light to the people around us. Do our words build up or breakdown? Does our use of words enlighten others or does it spread more darkness? This is a good litmus test for us and for the authenticity of our role as Christ’s disciples. This passage set before us today comes immediately after the Beatitudes and right at the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. From its location we have to see it as specially significant.

So these tasks of being salt and light for the world ought to be regarded as essential for the authentic following of Christ. It is interesting that Jesus approaches discipleship in this way by giving us metaphors rather than specific rules and regulations. When we begin a new job our employer usually tells us to perform certain tasks. We are given a set of routines to follow. This is the same whether we are in a factory with certain levers to press or whether we work with the general public where we go through particular routines in order to fulfil specific demands of our customers.

This is not the case with a disciple of Christ, we are given the maximum amount of freedom and have to interpret our role each in our own way. Christ gives us a huge amount of latitude and invites us to carry out our role as his representatives with the maximum level of personal responsibility.

We are invited to utilise our own special gifts and talents as well as our own unique understanding and these are used to inform our role of being a disciple. In this way the Christian message is given many facets and has a whole variety of expressions coming from all the different disciples in the world.

Christ trusts us to remain true to his message but gives us perfect freedom to express the message each in our own unique way. This is why he gives us metaphors and not rules. We are to be like salt and light but each of us is completely free to bring flavour and insight to the world according to our own unique circumstances and viewpoint. This is a wonderful freedom that Christ gives to his disciples; the important thing, of course, is that we actually use it.
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