FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2020)
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Genuine piety can very often be too closely identified with those things, some of them sacramental, that are most familiar and most regular for us – Mass attendance, the rosary, novenas, adoration, Church visits, and the like. Some would suggest that our faith is best served, and most appropriately demonstrated, when those things are multiplied beyond counting. But none of those things are mentioned in today’s readings. Indeed, “all of today’s readings urge us to act in the face of poverty, hatred and injustice,” says Jaime L. Waters, America Magazine, “and they challenge us to put the needs of others on the same level as our own. We should remember that our faith in God requires us to act. Our treatment of all people in society is a reflection of our relationship with God.”
There is nowhere in the New Testament where Jesus is more like Moses, the giver of the Law, than in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is the new Moses in Matthew, and He interprets the law for His times; He does not do away with the Law, He reinterprets the Law and redirects the Law. As Sr. Mary McGlone, SJ, says in her commentaries on the gospel, “some folks regard law as an unchanging, self-explanatory end in itself: ‘Know the law, obey it, and nobody can fault you.’ For Jesus, the law is more like a road sign. It points toward a destination, but isn’t an end in itself.” The law is meant to lead us to a closer union with the God we worship. “As Paul pointed out in Romans 7:7-25, too much attention to the law leads us into self-absorption rather than toward the loving relationships that are the purpose of human life. Valuing the law for its own sake distorts its very meaning. Jesus teaches us that aiming at the goal of the law unlocks its life-giving potential.”
Our first reading is clear about what God wants: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn…. If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” Our faith, if real, is meant to result in action, and where there is no clothing of the naked, where there is no demonstrable compassion, when there is no feeding of the hungry, and when there is no peace and justice, then there is no real faith. As reverent as your reception of communion might be, as exact as your posture might be, as carefully voiced are all your responses, if there is no action when you exit the church doors, then there is something seriously missing from your Mass attendance, there is something seriously wrong about your faith.
In our short gospel passage for the day, Jesus’ teaching is vivid, but not very specific. In passages made musically famous by the Broadway musical Godspel, Jesus tells us that we “are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under foot.” The reality is that salt should not lose its taste, and cannot be helped by the addition of things that are not salt. Were that possible it is good for nothing, and should just be discarded. Christians, like salt, are meant to be Christian, and there should be no other option than to live in a Christian manner. The addition of the things of this world, power, prestige, wealth, influence, are not a help to being Christian, for they are “things that are not salt,” not Christian. Only by being fully Christian, can Christians fulfill their God-given mission. The humility of Paul in our second reading is helpful here. He did not try to impress the Corinthian community, which was wracked by all sorts of divisions, with any of the things of this world. He came to them “in weakness and fear and much trembling,” so that the Corinthian’s faith “might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.” Paul simply came to the Corinthians as a disciple of Christ. He was faithful to his calling to be “salt of the earth.”
It is by being faithful to our calling that we become “the light of the world,” a light too precious to be placed “under a bushel basket.” The Christians’ light “must shine before others, that they may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] heavenly Father.” And how do we become the light? The first reading from Isaiah makes it very clear, and our psalm response proclaims that “the just man is a light in darkness to the upright.” A Christian that is faithful to his or her calling is “gracious and merciful and just,” they “conduct their affairs with justice.” Their heart is “firm” and “steadfast;” “lavishly [they] give to the poor; [their] justice shall endure forever. (Psalm 112:4-5, 7-10)”
Let us as Christians be the salt spoken of by Jesus, and season a world that is so desperately in need of love, compassion, and justice. Let us be lights for a world so burdened by darkness by allowing our faith and worship to move us to action, confronting the poverty, hunger, hatred and injustice wherever we might find it.