Last Sunday was the first of four Sunday Gospel readings from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Chapter 5), and we heard the beginning words: When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and … He began to teach them.” Moses had climbed a mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from God, and Matthew presents Jesus as a second Moses. In these four weeks, we will hear the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ summary of the moral life, his description of what a good person looks like. In last week’s section, Jesus used the Beatitudes to describe goodness in behavioral terms. This week Jesus uses two metaphors, salt and light.
“You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” Both salt and light are elements of nature, and so they are still enduring metaphors these many centuries later. Perhaps we are more drawn to the image of light because, when our electricity suddenly fails, we realize how much difference just one candle or one flashlight makes. We depend on light to grow food, and for safety as we drive our cars. We admire light in fireworks, light shows and views of distant galaxies.
Perhaps we may take salt for granted. A pound of it costs less than a dollar. Most of us no longer use it like people in earlier times did, to cure fish and meat, to heal, to trade or to ward off evil. Salt seems to last forever in our salt shakers or other containers, so we puzzle when we hear Jesus say, “if salt loses its taste … it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out…” But in former days and still today in many places, salt harvested from salt flats or mines is piled up until it can be sold. If it gets too wet, then much of the salty taste can leach away.
Our world needs the light of goodness to show us how to live worthily. It needs the salt of goodness to keep our world from rotting away. Salt-and-light goodness refers also to our world, not only to private morality. The light and salt of our goodness, together with that of others’, keeps the whole human family growing into the ever-greater beauty intended for it by God.
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia