This weekend we heard from Jesus that we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (cf. Matt. 5:13-16) Salt was a preservative and is still used as an additive to our food, making it more tasty. Salt was an important chemical compound which was valuable to the people then and now. Chemically, salt, the ionic compound Sodium Chloride (NaCl), cannot be turned into another compound by any known natural process. That means the quality of saltiness cannot be removed from the compound. What he just ignorant of chemistry? No. Here’s some thoughts…
In antiquity, sources for salt were highly impure and therefore, exposure to water over time could remove the salt leaving only the impurities which would not have the salty taste. So in this manner, it is possible for someone to come to the conclusion that salt could loose its taste. Since we are talking about Jesus here, this sense of understanding is not likely the way in which Jesus intended to speak. More likely he was speaking rhetorically: what good is salt if it is not salty? Knowing some basic chemistry heightens the sense of contradiction to the point of hyperbole (exaggerating to make a point).
Jesus may have wanted to express how important we are to his plan and that by dismissing or diminishing our calling, we become useless. Are you aware that you are called by our Lord for some task, a vocation, in this life? It is ridiculous for any of us to make a claim that we are without value when he himself made us in his own image. You see, we cannot lose our value (aka our saltiness). So, know that you and I are all salt, important parts of life and of God’s plan, valuable beyond imagination, wanted and loved beyond comprehension. Faith can be another way to understand the image of salt used in Jesus’ teaching. What good is faith if it is not faithful to God’s command to be shared? This connects to the next image Jesus spoke about.
He called us “the light for the world.” He wanted us to know that we have received the light of truth and salvation which is intended to be shared with the world. Too often some might say, “My faith is a private thing,” and excuse themselves from expressing or sharing it. While it is certainly an intimate thing which dwells deep within one’s heart, Jesus is clear that we are not to hide ourselves or keep our faith, to ourselves. So, pray this week about how you might be able to recognize your saltiness and be a beacon of light to others.
Fr. William Holtzinger