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You Are!

Matthew 5:13-16

5 Epiphany, A

Today's Gospel reading comes immediately upon the very well-known Beatitudes of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The first four Beatitudes proclaimed that human creatures with nothing in themselves to offer God nevertheless receive all the gifts that have come through Jesus. All the blessings of God are given through Jesus, to the spiritually bankrupt. That is why they are now profoundly and eternally blessed. The last four Beatitudes then pronounce further blessing upon Jesus’ disciples who, by virtue of their relationship with him, have begun to be merciful, have received pure hearts, now work for Gospel peace, and may even suffer persecution. Taught, blessed, and strengthened by Good News from the Son of God and Servant of the Lord, Jesus' disciples now receive their calling and identity.

13“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You Are” … Note here, it does not say “You Will Be” or “You Should Be” or even “You Could Be” … YOU ARE … the connection between blessing and calling is absolutely unbreakable. It is a question of the disciples' very identity. To be the disciples of Jesus and to receive his present and future blessing is at the same time to have become (by those very blessings) the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

The earth is evil, corrupt, deficient. The stench of death and decay are all around us. Society, morals, families and communities are all rotting away. The earth needs to be salted; people need to be called to “repent” and believe the Good News that in Jesus the kingdom of God is at hand. Only Jesus, and His disciples, by virtue of their relationship to Him, can do for the world what it needs. There is no other salt. There is no other light. If the disciples turn away from and reject His calling, they become tasteless and then no means remain for the earth to receive the necessary blessings!

14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Light casts out darkness. Darkness again, is a picture of evil, danger, being lost and unable to find one's way. The Gospel is to shine forth from our lives and our lips, bringing God's gracious light of meaning, Truth, Beauty, Love and Forgiveness to an otherwise dark and oppressive world. There is no other light, than that which comes from Christ. Without it all the world is lost in darkness. Let us never, by our words and deeds become the very thing that obscures that light rather than broadcast it gladly!

And so we see that Jesus’ words contain a warning and a possible rebuke. Unsalty salt, invisible cities on the brow of a mountain, and lamps that are lit simply to be covered again all nonsensical ideas. And so Jesus' line of thinking becomes clear … to contradict Him is to descend into absurdity. To seek to escape our calling is to reject the Good News, to reject Jesus Himself! There is a danger that His disciples (us included) would forget or misunderstand the calling that they have received as those who have been blessed, forgiven, saved, and called.

16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Lest disciples begin to forget, Jesus’ words are direct and clear: “Let your light shine in the presence of people”. The nature of the light is also clear: “your good works”. The purpose of shining of such light? That people will see the good work and recognize it as testimony to the heavenly Father.

This reading thus invites us to grasp by faith our identity as a community and to live not for ourselves, but for others and for the world. Not so with Jesus. Having filled his empty disciples with blessing, He names us salt and light and sends us out to our vocations and our communities as those who bless others. We do it with the goal of revealing what God, the Father of the Lord Jesus, is like. Just as surely as salt is a blessing and light brings hope and clarity, so Jesus’ disciples, by their good deeds, show others who their Father is. Each Christian is salt and light by virtue of living out their vocation. Their calling is part and parcel of their life in Him.

Good works must follow … do everything for the glory of God the Father. Converting and leading to faith and discipleship; edifying our fellow believers and taking care of those less fortunate. Good works, mighty works, Holy Works are carried out in ordinary life and in our daily vocations. But by being extraordinary! Extraordinary husbands and wives, remarkable neighbours and employees, powerful friends and citizens. [fruits of the spirit]

Both words and deeds are necessary. Words without deeds will not be heard, but deeds without words will bring not one person to praise the Father in heaven. Each believing man, woman and child stands as a disciple because of Jesus' forgiveness and blessing, and receives Jesus' calling to be salt and light. In the brightness of His light, our light will shine for the blessing and salvation of the world.


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