Sunday, February 9, 2020

Salt & Light

As in most Italian families, food was a huge concern when I was growing up. It involved a good deal of drama, time and energy. And I spent much of my childhood waiting in the car while my mother went from butcher to bakery to cheese shop, all to find the perfect ingredients. Once prepared, the food was placed on the table. There was a pause. My mother waited for the verdict from my father. If he said in Neapolitan dialect, “E liscio,” we knew we were doomed. Then she sulked, protested. He shrugged. Liscio. It means bland, literally – flat; the food had no edge, no bite. It needed something, that certain something, at least a little more salt. Perhaps that’s what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel, as he tells us that we are to be the salt of the earth – we are to bring savor, delight, lovingkindness to all around us – that certain something that only each one of us can offer, to makes things better. This "bit," our little "bit" can transform things. Dare we believe it? I think my mum and dad would have understood.

Salt in Jesus’ world was after all a valuable commodity, used as a preservative, a seasoning, even as a disinfectant. And as Jesus invites us to be salt, we recall that it is he himself who is who is best of all, first of all, the Salt of our Earth, for he has he has come down to us, stooped down to us in his compassion, opened wide the arms of his mercy on the cross and blended himself with our dim and bland humanity and given it savor and tang, light and beauty, meaning and hope, redemption from the dark, tasteless trap of our sinfulness and self-absorption.

He it is who is our Light in all the darkness we encounter within us and around us. He is the bright Way through all that troubles and dismays us. And if we are to be salt and light, we can dare to try to be so because we seek to imitate him. If his words are encouragement, they are also urgent exhortation to do the better thing, make the grace-filled choice, often to do the opposite of what my first reaction might be and respond with a bit of grace and lovingkindness.

Photograph of Brother Patrick's pizza by Brother Kevin. Meditation by one of the monks.