Isaiah 58:7-10

Psalms 112:4-9

1 Corinthians  2:1-5

Matthew 5:13-16

Today’s readings for this fifth Sunday in Ordinary time, appear in Matthew’s gospel right after the Beatitudes and the calling of Jesus’ first disciples.  It’s as though they are answering the question, “how does the blueprint for Christian living proclaimed by Jesus (Beatitudes) play itself out in the day to day living of those who choose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus?”  Even the first reading from the prophet Isaiah seems to answer the questions that arise after one responds to Jesus’ call to discipleship: “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.”  Isaiah goes on to say, “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.”

So much of what Jesus will teach His disciples was gleaned from the Jewish Scriptures with which He was so familiar.  While antisemitism appears to be on the rise, no Christian can escape the reality that they are part of a Judeo (Jewish) Christian tradition.  Even the Jewish psalmist today speaks of those things which are (or are meant to be) central to the Church and world: Justice, mercy, generosity to the poor. They are the virtues upon which Jesus based His Beatitudes and His entire teaching.

Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples in today’s gospel begins by calling His disciples “the salt of the earth.”  While we think of salt as a condiment, for the people of Jesus’ day it was an absolute essential for living.  Without any refrigeration, salt was the primary preservative, keeping fish and meats reasonably fresh until they could be eaten.  Jesus wants His disciples to see themselves as essential to the world in which they live.  The disciples of Jesus are going to stand out like a “city set on a mountain that cannot be hidden,” and what will make them stand apart from the crowds will be the works that they do.  Jesus’ disciples will be the lights in the world that dispel the darkness of sin, something so beautifully symbolized  in the Easter vigil when the light that is Christ is shared with everyone present, and the light illuminates a darkened church.

Paul in the second reading from Corinthians makes it perfectly clear that he comes to communities not armed with sublime words or unique wisdom.  Rather, he comes armed with a “demonstration of Spirit and power.“  Paul attracts the attention of the Corinthians, the Colossians, the Ephesians, not with words, but with deeds.  Whatever words Paul does speak, are matched by a lifestyle which points to his attachment to Christ, the only person about which he is willing to boast.

We who bear the name Christian are also meant to be lights for the world.  We are meant to stand apart from the crowds not because of any curiosity or particular talent.  We stand apart because we possess the gifts of the Spirit, which are capable of lightening up an often darkened world.  The darkness of hunger can be fed, the darkness of ignorance can be given wisdom, the darkness of want can be overcome by generosity, the darkness of indifference can be overcome by compassion.  When we “demonstrate” our allegiance to Jesus, and to Him alone, that is when we shine like the brightest of stars and when the world will take notice.

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