Reflection on the Gospel of Matthew 5:13-20; Fifth Sunday after The Epiphany, February 5, 2023

The Gospel of Matthew 5:13-20

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Let us Pray:  Heavenly Father, your Word is challenge, and command for us. How often do we stumble, fall short in fulfilling it! Justice, generosity, holiness, mercy we break your Word, your heart, and the hearts of people most in need of those good things. Thank you for Jesus, who fulfilled your Word among us, and who IS your Word. Thank you for setting his unquenchable light and holiness, mercy, and obedience within our hearts. For his sake, make us like him: salt and light, hope and holiness, so others may turn to him and live. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

In the previous passage, known as the beatitudes, Jesus aimed to encourage his followers by affirming their current blessed state and assuring them of a future hope. Jesus was careful to identify who his true followers were by naming them by their meek, humble traits. In essence, Jesus said that his followers were blessed because all of God’s promises to them will be kept. Now, Jesus turns his attention to what it means to live as his follower. But this message isn’t just for Christians. It is also a powerful message to those who are outside of Christ. Jesus’s standard here is impossibly high for people operating in their own strength and depending on their own self-righteousness. The images of “salt” and “light” evoke the imagination of Jesus’ listeners and may represent more than one meaning. Jesus gives them more specific substance in what follows. Who are ‘salt’ of the earth? They are the humble, the ones who mourn, the meek, and those who thirst after doing what is right in the world.  Who are ‘light’? They are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who receive abuse for standing up for what is right. You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.” Don’t think this is about somebody other than you. Jesus is not talking to particular individuals. He is talking to the crowds that have followed him. You and I stand among that crowd. We’re one of them. We’ve come today to see this one we’ve heard about. We’ve come to listen and learn, to be healed, and to have our lives put back together. We’ve come in search of meaning, direction, and purpose. Jesus’ words are as true and applicable today as they were two thousand years ago. “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.”

Christ has given us the salt and light of his divinity not just for ourselves but that others might eat and see better. The salt is for us to sprinkle onto the world. The light that fills our hearts and minds shines on and brightens all of life. So, what does that look like? What does that mean for us? It means we can have influence in the world and to other people. It is looking another in the eyes, speaking a kind word, and acknowledging him or her as having been created in the image and likeness of God. It is generosity with your compassion, time, and money to care for and make a difference in the lives of the poor, the hungry, the homeless. It is starting a conversation and rebuilding a relationship when what you mostly feel is indifference, pain, or anger. It is praying that God will bless you with all the good gifts you want for yourself and those you love, those who have hurt you, those who are different from you, and those with whom you disagree. It is faithfulness and commitment to others shown by listening, being available, and spending time. It would mean slowing down, rearranging your schedule to free up some time for others. It is choosing a life of self-giving rather than taking and acquiring, vulnerability rather than defensiveness, and intimacy rather than isolation. It is loving God, your neighbor, your enemy, and yourself. It means choice overcomes feelings. It’s overwhelming, this business of being Salt and Light, of following Christ in a world shrouded in darkness. How can we pretend to be the Light of the World when some of us can hardly peek out from behind veils of fear or anger or heartache? How can we aspire to be a City on a Hill, shining for all to see, when we’re not sure how to dispel the shadows cast by pain and suffering in our homes and communities, much less in our world?

 Let us Pray: Eternal God, sometimes we may feel as if we are no more than one tiny candle in a world of darkness, a pitiful flicker in a malicious environment. But rather than allowing ill winds to extinguish our flame, we remember the word of Jesus to treat others as we want to be treated and we refuse to be stuffed out. This we pray in your Name. Amen

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