This past Sunday’s Gospel was the familiar calling for us to be light and salt to the world! When I’ve heard and read this in the past, there was a little bubble of pride that would well up within me – light chases out the darkness and salt brings flavor! Hooray for those of us who get to bring flavor to life and chase away the darkness!
This weekend, after witnessing months of political turmoil and anger between friends and loved ones unlike any I’ve seen before, I heard it a little differently.
The same lamps and candles which illuminate even the darkest shadows, if left untended and uncontrolled, can burn and destroy. The tongues of flame which can bring warmth and comfort are the same ones that scorch and consume. Far from being an absolute gift, that light can blind if it’s not controlled, not keeping the darkness at bay, but making it permanent.
The same with the salt, when used without prudence or discretion, too much salt can be caustic causing burns and damaging any living thing it touches. Applied without care or good judgement, it ruins the food it’s added to, but makes it inedible and a waste of effort and ingredients. Sown where it doesn’t have any place being, it makes even the most fertile lands barren, so that no matter where seeds fall they are killed the moment they begin to grow.
But when used correctly, with a careful hand, salt can help to heal a wound and drive out infection and corruption. When added to food in proper amounts, it almost disappears, highlighting not its own essence, but making all the other flavors brighter, bolder, and brings out the fullness of all the other spices. Salt can add flavor and bring healing, but only when applied with knowledge, wisdom, and prudent judgement – a thing which Jesus’s audiences would have known very well.
Here I’ve been out loudly and proudly defending and promoting my Faith, thinking I was being the very definition of Light and Salt, but because I wan’t always practicing prudence and control, there are people I know I have blinded to Truth and fertile ground that I have made barren. It’s astounding when I think back on the damage I have done in God’s name through my own brash and unsympathetic approach.
This week I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to change that. How to stop over-salting or burning with a light that’s too intense. The worst thing I can imagine would be in my zeal and love of the Faith to become the very thing that forever kills it for someone else. So now I’m asking God for help in making my touch light and my approach gentle, to let me bring a welcome addition to the lives of those around me instead of a harshness that they dread.
Let me be Salt and Light applied with a Master’s touch.
photo credit:© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, via Wikimedia Commons
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