The 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 5th February 2023
Lectionary Readings: Isa. 58:7-10; Ps 111:4-9; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; Matt.5:13-16
Theme: Taste and see that the Lord is good
The gospel reading of this Sunday speaks about taste and vision. As metaphors for these two sensations Jesus uses “salt” and “light”. In fact, he addresses his disciples directly as being “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. These titles seem very sophisticated, even more so since Jesus does not say that his disciples will eventually becomesalt and light but that they already are. But the titles come with a warning in connection to their usefulness. Salt is only useful when it is salty and light is only useful when it shines on its environment, i.e. when it enlightens. The climax of this gospel passage seems to be the last verse. The purpose of the disciples being salt and light is their performing of good works, which will be seen by others, which in turn will culminate in the praising of the heavenly Father.
What does Jesus mean, when he addresses his followers as “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”? Salt, even in small dosages can make a huge difference in food. It adds taste and if used correctly enhances the inherent flavor of the seasoned product. In the process of seasoning however, the salt itself disappears; it melts and dissolves while giving its seasoning power so to speak to the respective food environment. The same also applies to light. Light itself is invisible. We notice light because of the things it enlightens. We can see things because of a light shining on them but the light itself is not tangible. And even if we speak of seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel” – we see something bright but “light” itself is not an object which can be grasped or seen. Thus, both salt and light are in their beneficial function only mediums for a greater good so to speak. Of themselves they are not the center of interest, but they are most welcome because of their good effect on their environment.
Taking a closer look at today’s readings from the Old Testament, we can learn from the book of Isaiah, how God desires his people to let their light shine in this world: by feeding, clothing and sheltering those in need of care, both strangers and relatives alike. All who do these works imitate God’s own goodness, as Psalm 111 describes: God is gracious and compassionate, he himself feeds the hungry.
Thus, Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, reminds his disciples of their worthiness in the eyes of God. They are indeed mediums for God’s own goodness to this earth and to this world. Every time they accept their identity and responsibility as being salt and light, they make God’s compassion and graciousness visible and tangible to their environment so that indeed it becomes obvious to others: “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8).
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Where have you tasted and seen the goodness of God? 2. Think of your environment where a pinch of heavenly salt and light could make all the difference.
Bibliography: Levine,A-J.and Brettler, M.Z., The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Second Edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford/New York: 2017)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Barbara Kauffmann, Germany, Bat Kol Alumna 2010, 2011, 2012
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