The 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 9 February 2020
Lectionary Readings: Isa 58:7-10; Ps 112:4-9; 1 Cor 2:1-5; Matt 5:13-16
Theme: Become What You Are

This passage from Matthew’s gospel immediately follows Jesus’ proclamation of the beatitudes and personalizes the call that the beatitudes present to the faithful disciple, then and now. Without shifting the focus of attention from the quality of discipleship he seeks, Jesus transitions from the more objective “Blessed are the poor …” to “YOU are the salt of the earth … the light of the world.” Here, salt and light become powerful symbols of the creative edge of personal commitment to discipleship. John Shea (pp. 73-75) comments that the dire negative consequence of tasteless salt being trampled underfoot galvanizes our freedom into the commitment to become the salt that we are. To lose this ultimate purpose and passion is to be reduced to a shriveled identity. As for light, it is meant to give light, in whatever ways the disciple can. People of salt and light engage in “good works” but, even more, in envisioning and executing new initiatives that reflect and give glory to their divine source; this is the challenge of discipleship

In a reflection on fasting, the Isaiah’s passage exemplifies some of the “good works” to which Matthew alluded: loosening the bonds of injustice, freeing the oppressed, sharing bread with the hungry, bringing home the homeless, clothing the naked, attending to the needs of the afflicted, and desisting from speaking evil. Like Matthew, Isaiah and the psalmist employ the image of light to depict the effect of such fasting: “your light shall break forth like the dawn” (Isa 58:8), “your light shall rise in the darkness” (58:10), “those who fear the Lord rise in the darkness as a light for the upright” (Ps 112:4). The tone of the text is clearly liberation of those bound, oppressed, deprived, and even liberation of oneself as an agent of this freedom

In this excerpt from his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul takes us, in stark terms, to the heart of his ministry, that is, Christ, and more specifically, Christ crucified, who was not the type of savior that either Jews or Gentiles expected (Brown et al., 801). Regarding this “mystery of God,” about which Paul writes, J. M. O’Connor cites C. K. Barrett’s clarification that the term martyrion (testimony or witness) – “the testimony of God” – is more probable than mysterion (mystery) which is used in the lectionary’s edition of the text (cf. Brown et al.). For Paul, the testimony given by God, or the secret revealed by God, is Christ. Paul humbly affirms that this revelation is due not to whatever human wisdom he could impart, but only to the Spirit and power of God at work in the Corinthians, enabling and confirming their faith in Christ. It is this Spirit and power of God that transforms our discipleship into salt and light and liberation.

For Reflection and Discussion: [1] How have you experienced “salt” and “light” in your own commitment to discipleship or in the community of disciples of which you are a part? [2] What does “fasting” mean to you, what is the value of it, and what part does it play in your journey in faith?

Bibliography: Brown, R. An Introduction to the New Testament (New York, 1997); Brown, R. et al. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (New Jersey: 1990); Shea, J. Matthew Year A: On Earth as It Is in Heaven (Collegeville: 2004)

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