Reflection: the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Monday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church


[1st Reading – Is.58:7-10; Ps.111; 2nd Reading – 1Cor.2:1-5; Gospel – Mt.5:13-16]

In today’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples that they are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. Why did he say this?  What did he mean by these analogies?

You are the Salt of the earth.  Every one knows that salt is that substance which enhances and gives taste to food.  Yet Jesus is also conscious that salt can become tasteless, in which case it will be good for nothing and can only be thrown away to be trampled underfoot by everyone. Similarly, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the “salt of the earth”.  He does not say “You are like the salt!” but says instead “You are the salt!”.  Therefore they are not ‘like’ the salt, but they are the salt itself which is to enhance the taste of the food (i.e. the word of God!).  They are the same essence without which the ‘food’ will not taste the same. Their purpose is to reach “the earth” i.e. all the earth!  Whilst telling them that they are the “salt of the earth”, Jesus also instructs them to be careful not to become “tasteless”, for no one uses tasteless salt!

You are the light of the world.  In the same manner as the comparison with the salt, Jesus tells his disciples that they are also “the light of the world”.  Again, Jesus does not tell them that they are “like” the light, but that they “are” “The light of the world”.  They are not a reflection.  They are the light itself that enlightens all upon which the light falls.  Jesus gives them examples to further clarify his point:  He mentions a city built on a hill-top which cannot be hidden and he mentions also the lamp which is not lit in order for it to be hidden.  When a lamp is lit, it is put on a lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house.  Therefore, Jesus says, the light of his disciples must shine in such a way that when others see their good works, they may give praise and glory to the Father in heaven.

So, when the disciple becomes salt of the earth or light of the world it is not for his/her own glory… but so that the Father in heaven may be praised.  It is through their good works that the disciples become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  Those who witness the good works of the disciples will then give praise to God, the Father.

But when and how does a disciple become ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’?  It is only as long as the salt or the light remains attached to its source i.e. the salt to the sea and the light to the energy source that keeps it burning.  In both these cases, the disciple’s source is Jesus himself.  The disciple can become salt/light of the earth/world if he/she remains linked to Jesus who will continue to give energy to those who listen to his word and put it into practice.

If we think about what Jesus has done while he was in the world with his disciples, whatever Jesus did, he did it not only in praise of the Father in heaven but also by letting the Holy Spirit work in him.  Jesus himself was the ‘salt of the earth’ and he himself was the ‘light of the world’.  Yet Jesus wanted his disciples to participate with him and become like him i.e. the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  It is the same Holy Spirit that will work in them.  It is the same Father who will be praised through their good works.  It is the light and the taste of the body of the Son that transpires through the disciples who, like Jesus, have accepted to become the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

“Lord, you wanted your disciples to participate in your life in such a way that they become like you: salt of the earth and light of the world.  Give us the courage to accept and become your disciples.  Enlighten us as you were enlightened.  Give us the taste of the salt to be able to give taste to what we do.  Thank you Lord!”


Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo )

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