Homily – February 6

In talking about today’s scripture readings someone on staff claimed that salt never loses it flavor. I guess that may be true. But I discovered that salt can lose its saltiness. I was reading up on the background of today’s gospel and found this out:

“In the biblical times each village had a common oven. Since villagers were often members of a very large, extended family, these common ovens were family ovens.

“The common fuel for the oven was something that was more plentiful than wood: camel or donkey dung. One of the duties each young girl had to learn was to collect the dung, mix salt in it, and mould it into patties to be left in the sun to dry. In the Middle East and many Third World countries, such dung patties are still used as fuel today.

“A slab of salt was placed at the base of the oven and upon it the salted dung patty. Salt has catalytic properties which cause the dung to burn. Eventually the salt slab loses its catalytic ability and becomes useless. As Jesus says, “It is good for nothing but to be thrown outside where it can still provide a sure footing in a muddy road.”

To be salt for the earth-oven is to start fires and make things burn to cook the food that will nourish the families of the village. Jesus uses this cultural image when he teaches, “you, my disciples, are the salt;” that is the catalyst to provide the fire that will nourish the family of faith.

As followers of Jesus we are to be catalysts, agents of change in the life situations in which we find ourselves. This may sound rather heavy, how can we change this crazy mixed up world. We’re not talking about the world and its many crises, but we are to be salt in the life situations in which we find ourselves, whether in our family life, our work situation or in our social life. We are to be salt in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives. The teachings of Jesus echo the teachings of the ancient prophets. Isaiah’s demands are as true today as they were in his day. As followers of Christ each one of us, in our own way, in our own situation is called to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, share our bread with the hungry, house the homeless poor, clothe the naked and take care of our own, especially our aged. We remember the words of Jesus when he spoke of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the lonely, the homeless; “as often as you did these things to one of these, the least of mine, you did them to me.”

We are salt when we speak out when we see a fellow worker or a new neighbour the victim or racism or prejudice. We are salt when we refuse to be influenced by the xenophobic statements of politicians who basically want to refuse sanctuary to refugees. We are salt when we treat whoever we meet with respect and recognize their dignity as fellow humans. We are salt when we take the time to speak to new parishioners and make them welcome in our parish family. We are salt when we support the value and dignity of life in all its phases. We are salt when we strive to resolve family conflicts and bring about reconciliation. We are salt when we make the time to visit aged parents in nursing or retirement homes. We are salt whenever we try to live the great commandment: “love one another as I have loved you.” We are salt when we help Good Shepherd Centre feed the homeless. We are salt when we support the clothing drive of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Like salt we can loose our catalytic powers to cause changes. Indifference, avoidance, weariness at all the requests for our help, overwhelmed by our own life or family problems, all these can cause us to loose our saltiness, our willingness to make a difference.

So as we continue to celebrate this Mass together, challenged by today’s scripture, we pray for ourselves and for each other that Christ give us the strength and generosity we need to be salt and light to all those whose lives we touch.