The salt of Christian witness - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2020

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > The salt of Christian witness - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) 2020

When Jesus says to his disciples, “You are salt of the earth,” we can hear the Lord saying this to each of us. The Lord considers us as having a very important role in human society. We are not just living within the society, we are meant to have a positive impact on the society in which we live. Hear the Lord say to us today with serious intent: “You are the salt of the earth.”

Salt is both a preservative and an agent of taste and flavour. Christians are to be a preservative influence in the world, particularly in human society, and an agent to provide flavour, texture, to human life. It is a powerful image.

Human society is constantly changing. It is dynamic and lives in flux. We are privileged to live in a democratic society where we can have a real say in the policies that the government decides upon. We do this when we vote and also when we inform our politicians of what really matters to us. This is a great privilege that many in other parts of the world do not enjoy. Democratic societies allow people to have a say in its direction and so the Christian, if they are to be salt and light, should be engaged in the issues that are shaping the way society is heading.

However, society these days is strongly influenced by social movements which arise from a variety of sources. These social movements have so much more impact these days through the use of the media, especially social media. Matters – sometimes quite trivial matters – become subject to widespread comment. Sadly we live in an age of outrage. Social media can be vicious and destructive when targeted at one individual. It can crush them. Social media has raised bullying to a whole new level.

The Lord looks to us to try to influence the society in which we live. It can seem a daunting if not impossible task. So we need to look for a place to start.

A good place to start is to see our first task as being a faithful witness to Christ and his teaching. It is good if we consider it a joy and privilege to allow the beauty of the Christian way of life shine through us, and we consciously seek to do this. Here we adopt the attitude of humility, gentleness and respect. We are not pushy or demanding. We just seek to be ourselves. What Pope John Paul II said is very helpful – we do not seek to impose but simply to propose.

In witness it is not ourselves that we are promoting but rather Christ or more specifically what Christ has done in me. As St John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” We want people to see Christ in us. Our witness wants to give glory to God.

Of course, we are always willing to share what our faith means to us when asked or the opportunity is right. Even if this happens rarely we do not hide our light under a basket. We are prepared to be known for who we are: Christians whose faith has given peace, joy and hope to our lives.

We are aware that the Holy Spirit can use us in every situation. It is not a bad thing to often pray to the Holy Spirit to give us the right words to say, or to open up an opportunity to share our faith.

Our motivation is always love. We know that God has loved us first. We know that God loves each person individually and we are open to being agents of that love.

Living in the world it is good to be reminded that our deepest identity is that we are Christians. St Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.” Christ is our principle of life, the focus of our being, the source of meaning and purpose to our life. We seek to imitate Christ and live out his teachings. So we desire to be his faithful disciples. Christ is the orientation of all our thoughts, words and actions. We want to be the best possible example of a true follower of Jesus Christ among those with whom we live, beginning with our families. We want people to see Christ in us.

Our Christian life finds expression in the virtues that have grown within us. Thus, we are humble, patient and gentle as Christ was. We are compassionate, kind and generous as Christ was. We desire to serve and assist others as Christ did. We love even those who hate us as Christ did.

We know that Christ longs to heal and restore, not just bodies but hearts and minds, so we seek to be his instruments of healing wherever possible.

We uphold marriage and family as human instructions designed by God as the path for the true flourishing of human life. Thus we work for the preservation of the marriage covenant. 

Within our society we seek to be good citizens, and at the same time witnesses to what human society can truly be. We are content to live holy and quiet lives, but want to be a source of inspiration and guidance to those around us. We are people of truth and integrity and will not be complicit with what is wrong or evil.

In this teaching the Lord also gives a warning: the salt must not lose its taste. Once salt surrenders its distinctiveness it becomes useless. In other words, if a Christian loses the integrity of their faith, they are of no use. As Christians then we cannot allow ourselves to be so conformed to the world that we cease to be distinctive and make be able to make a real contribution to its betterment.

It is always more comfortable to conform than to stand as being different. It is always easier to go along with the crowd and be accepted as one of them. This, however, is not what the Lord expects. He expects us to be different and in being different be an influence for good, ultimately for the advancement of the Gospel and the good of human society.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, February 9 2020