9 February 20195 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 of Ordinary Time: The Wisdom of God

I want to begin today with some thoughts regarding the ancient civilization of Greece.  When we think about the ancient Greeks, certain images come to our mind.  We think about the beautiful Temples.  We think about the wonderful and still meaningful Greek dramas.  And, we think about Greek philosophy.

The Greeks were very serious about philosophy, far more than we are today, unfortunately.  When St. Paul visited Greece, he found that many of the Greeks were firmly entrenched in the camps of several philosophers.  For example, there were those who followed Heraclitus and believed that the world was always in a constant state of change.  There were those who followed Parmenides who claimed that the world was unchangeable.  There were the followers of Plato who spoke about the inner recollection we all have of an ideal world. The world according to Plato was a combination of what our minds could make of it and reality.  There were the followers of Aristotle who said that the world is as it appears.  Reality exists, and we are capable of understanding it.

Paul came to these people without having any particular knowledge of the major Greek philosophers.  You can understand why he came to these intelligentsia in fear and trembling.  "What line of thinking are you employing?" the Greek citizen would ask Paul.  “In what philosophy is your wisdom based?”  To these Paul states in the second reading for today, "My message and my preaching has none of the persuasive force of 'wise' argumentation.  Instead it has the convincing power of the Holy Spirit."  Then he reminds the Christians at Corinth, "As a result your faith rests not on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God."

Philosophy is good, important and necessary, but the wisdom of philosophy is infinitely inferior to the power of God.  This is Paul's message to the new Christians at Corinth.  It is his message to us as we are continually tempted to underestimate the value of our faith.

Sometimes we come upon our modern intelligentsia who will lay claim to the term of being wise because they have studied Kant, or Kierkegaard, or are well acquainted with the writings and beliefs of the East, the Buddhists or Hindus, or the Moslems, etc. An arrogant intellectual might ask:  "You mean you haven't read Stephen Hawkin's A Brief History of Time?"  The assumption would be that if we had read and understood that book we would be a lot wiser.  This is not true.  Having a grasp of all the knowledge there is in the world and all the great theories of the greatest of the philosophers may help develop our intellectual capacity and give us a clearer understanding of the world, but if this were the basis of our wisdom than we would not be wise.  Instead, we would be fools.  To the Christian, wisdom is not based on any person other than the person of Jesus Christ.  Our wisdom is not lost in some document past or present, our wisdom is alive, because the Power of God lives. 

Our wisdom is based not on theory but on faith.

I want to tell you a little story that illustrates this.  This is a story about identical twin girls, Amy and Annie. The twins, Amy and Annie, were about one month away from their birth.  Life was very pleasant for the twins.  There was a constant source of food for each of them, even if sometimes it was a little spicier than they wanted.  Their home was warm and comfortable. It seemed to move around a lot, but they were in lovely, velvety soft water, so they didn't mind it. They slept and played.  One of their favorite games was kickboxing.  One day, they got into an argument.  Amy said that it she was sure looking forward to the day when she could see the Mommy face to face. Annie said, “How do you know there is a Mommy?”  Amy said, well of course there is a Mommy, look at how wonderful our life is.  We couldn't have this if there was not Mommy.”  Annie said, “Well, if there is a Mommy: show her to me.  If I can't see the Mommy, I don't believe there is a Mommy.”  Amy could not show Annie the Mommy, but she could feel her presence and her love.  The discussion and argument went on for about a month.  Amy used to say to Annie, “You have to believe, you have to trust.  There is more to life than meets the eye.”  And Annie would respond, “Stop being so simple, so naive.  Use your mind and put your trust only in that which your mind can discover.” Then one day their world became quite unsettled.  The walls started squeezing them into a small space.  Amy cried out, “Mommy I know you are out there.  I need you now.”  Annie just cried and cried.  She was at a total loss trying to understand what was happening.  Her mind could not explain it.  She was full of fear.  Finally, she called out, “Mommy, I hope you exist because I am afraid and need someone to calm my fear.”  And the twins were born.  After the initial shock of it all, they both felt the warmth and the love they had felt in their former home.  And Annie realized that Amy was right.  There is a Mommy, and the warmth and love she felt before and feels now was the very presence of the Mommy.

Paul is telling the people of Corinth and us that the reality which we do not see is more powerful, more certain, a deeper truth than the reality that we do see.  The wisdom that our minds cannot come to is infinitely superior to the wisdom that is based solely on our intellectual capacity. 

When sickness, trauma, or tragedy hit us; when our loved ones become ill, injured or die; it is Jesus Christ and Christ alone who brings order to the chaos of our lives.  We are people who have been enlightened by Christ.  Jesus Christ is God's answer to every question that has ever been or ever can be posed.  We are called today to reveal the true wisdom of the Lord to the world.  The wisdom not based on great intellects, but on the power of God. The world needs this still new wisdom.  Enlightened by Christ, we are the light of the world.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
5 Ordinary Time

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
5 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Ordinary Time

We didn't hear the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time because instead we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation on that day. Ordinarily it would have been an account of the Beatitudes with which Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount and in which we find the very heart of the Gospel message.

The Gospel text for this Sunday follows directly on from the Beatitudes and presents us with two images of the ideal disciple of Christ namely the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World. Each of these images is presented with two aspects one positive and one negative.

Salt enhances the taste of food. A good example is when you add a bit of salt to a tomato it really brings out the taste of the tomato so much so that you never want to eat tomato again without a pinch of salt. But then Jesus contrasts this with the suggestion that if salt becomes tasteless then it is of no use to anyone. All it will do then is put your blood pressure up without adding taste to anything.

In a similar way he talks about the lamp and its proper place on the lampstand where it gives light to the whole house and contrasts this with putting the lamp under a tub where it will give no light to anyone.

The conclusion he draws from these two strong images is that the disciple must be authentic and act like a disciple should so that men can see their good works and so be drawn to Jesus. This is what we call witnessing; doing good works so that our commitment to Christ and his Gospel are evident to everyone.

We don't do charitable works because they will bring us the admiration of others and allow us to show off; no, we do good works because we know this is what Christ wants us to do. We do good works in order to give glory to him. We care for our fellow man out of obedience to Christ.

From this we see that one of the fundamental characteristics of a Christian is to be outward looking, being concerned about the welfare of others and not being selfish or inward looking. We want to live our lives for other people and not be concerned with getting our own way or thinking always about our own personal advantage.

It might be worth exploring that image of salt for a bit. If we were to take things literally, actually being salt is absolutely hopeless. There is nothing so useless, so unmanageable, or so inedible as salt by itself. You can't do anything with just salt. Even if you were starving to death you could not eat salt to stay alive. Salt by itself is absolutely useless. It makes fields infertile, it kills life, it preserves death, it is very heavy. It is, on its own, totally useless.

Salt only becomes useful when it is mixed with other things. Jesus indicates this in today's gospel reading. You are the salt of the earth. We are not salt; we are the salt of the earth. We should be mixed up with the earth. We should be mixed in with the world around us.

If as a Christian you say I am the salt of the earth, then be prepared because what you are saying is that you should be thrown in the cooking pot. Of course, if you like you can stand in front of the cooking pot looking pretty. But no, you must be thrown in, mixed up with the world and thoroughly stewed. Of course, being salt it will become so absorbed into the stew that it will entirely disappear, but yet it's presence will make the stew tasty and palatable.

Christians who want to see themselves as the salt of the earth don't have to rush out and join all kinds of organisations and get themselves elected on to councils and committees. Though they may do some of these things in time.

They don't have to set up prayer groups all over the town, though they do have to pray. They don't even have to run around doing social work and bestowing care upon the poor, important and laudable through this is. What they have to do is bring a bit of flavour to the street in which they live and the places in which they work and play.

If salt is not mixed with anything else it is too bitter, too strong, too biting, too painful to the skin. Salt is therefore unbearable on its own. We can all think of Christians who are a bit like that. They are not mixed in, they don't have friends, they are not on good terms with their non-Christian neighbours. They are just as useless to God's plan for the salvation of the world as a big bag of salt and no stew.

If we are to look again at that image Jesus gives us about being the light of the world we realise that all these things we have said about salt can also be said about light. Light on its own is blinding. That's what you do if you want to torture prisoners, you shine lights in their eyes. Because light on its own hurts.

Light only becomes useful when it makes us able to see things other than itself. It is only useful when it illuminates dark corners. Jesus says that we must be the light of the world. Again, the operative words are ‘of the world'. We need to go about shedding light, making things visible, brightening things up.

As we can see there are two kinds of Christians: those who are wrapped up in themselves and too busy being self-righteous. They blind you with their Christianity, they rub salt into your wounds. They push Christ down your throat. Their Christianity is unpalatable, because it is to meet their own deep-seated needs and feelings of inadequacy.

Thank God however, that there are many more Christians who have got into the pot and who bring flavour and bite to the stew. They blend in, but they add taste and they bring light. They carry Christ's Gospel to all those they meet. They do so in quiet and subtle ways, they give example through their lives. They have understood the power behind gentleness and patience. They know how to live their lives in a fulfilling way. They know how to love and care.

These Christians are indeed the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And Christ is constantly using them to further his work of salvation in the world. Let us resolve to be like those true disciples who live for others and who bring Christ to the world.
These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.