Meditation of the week

Good quality salt

Mt 5,13-16.

Salt was an extremely valuable commodity in ancient Israel.  It was used for cooking, preserving, seasoning and as a fertiliser.  The Torah, the Jewish Law, and the gift of wisdom (in rabbinic literature), were often compared to salt. The disciples are to influence the world around about them by their good works and positive actions for others. They are not an exclusive sect turned in on themselves.  Were they to lose their religious and moral  fervour and vitality, and fail to give witness of their faith to others, (i.e. become foolish and uncommitted), they would be  like salt from the Dead Sea, which, because of chemical impurities contained in it, decomposed easily and lost its flavour. Jesus is saying to the disciples who are listening to his teaching, that if they possess the qualities mentioned in the beatitudes, they will give flavour to people’s lives by their example and preserve and promote what is good and worthy in life.  If not, they have nothing to offer. They are like salt without a taste.

The imagery of light was applied in the Old Testament to God, to Israel, to the Law and prophets, and in the New Testament to Jesus, especially (Mt 4,16; Lk. 1,79;2,32).  Mt 4,16 refers the quotation of Isaiah (9,1) to Jesus – “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light,” in Jesus.   Here in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus applies the same imagery of light to the disciples, and Matthew applies it to the first century Christian Church as well.  Just as a light brightens up a darkened house (as were most of the houses in the time of Jesus), so should the disciples’ good works be visible for others to see and imitate. The disciple is not showing his own light in a proud or boastful way as if the credit were due to him/her. He/she is always aware that they reflect the light of Christ, a borrowed light. Christians are to let their light shine out for people to see it clearly and give praise to God the source of all their gifts.

In Greek there are two words for “good”; “agathos”- good in quality; and “kalos,” implying that as well as being good, a thing has an attractive, appealing aspect to it.  Matthew uses” kalos” for good in this text. He wants to say that Jesus wishes his disciples’ good works to have that “kalos” quality about them – to have a goodness that attracts people, a beauty that appeals to them, a charm that draws them to God.

St Francis de Sales says that we can “catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrelful of vinegar.” Our Goodness and good deeds should have that “kalos” quality which Jesus refers to.  People of our time, religious and non-religious, admire the same kind of goodness in Pope Francis.

Do you let your light shine? Do you use your gifts and opportunities to do good works which help to build up others and the kingdom of God.? May our good works have that attractiveness (that kalos quality) which will lead people to God the source of all goodness and beauty.

“Of Courtesy, it is much less  than Courage of Heart or Holiness, 

Yet in my walks it seems to me

That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.”  (Hilaire Belloc)

Fr Geoff O’Grady