Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Mt. 5:13)
I’ve told this story before, but I’m reminded of it whenever I hear this Gospel! When I was in second or third grade, some of my classmates started making fun of me – as children do – by calling me “salty Nalty.” They would repeat it over and over again: “Salty Nalty! Salty Nalty! Salty Nalty,” especially as they realized that it distressed me at that young age. One day I came home from school and told my Mother about it. And she told me: “You just tell them that you are the ‘salt of the earth.’” I’m not sure I’d ever heard that saying before but it sounded like it came from the Bible, and in fact it’s the gospel we read this weekend.
What is it mean to be the “salt of the earth”?
In the ancient world, salt generally had two purposes. On one hand, salt was a preservative. We’ve all had experience with beef jerky, which is dried and salted beef. Many countries do the same thing with fish and pork and even vegetables. Pickling uses salty water and vinegar. Salt was used to stop something from “going bad.” Salt preserves from corruption.
The other obvious use for salt is to add flavor to food. Any cook will tell you that failing to properly salt food gives it a very bland quality. Salt makes things taster better!
So how do these two uses apply to the Apostles, and by extension, us? On one hand, the Apostles were called to be the “purifying” role. We live in a world with many corrupting influences. We see them all around us each day: blasphemy against God and Jesus, dishonesty, disordered sexual practice, violence, prejudice. Christians are called to be the “cleansing antiseptic” which defeats corruption and makes it easier for others to be good. A Christian cannot withdraw from the world, so he must, as Saint James said, keep himself “unstained from the world.”
And just as salt adds flavor to food, Christians lend flavor to life. One mistake of the world is that so many people have often connected Christianity with blandness. Others need to discover the beauty of the Christian faith. We are people of hope! In a depressed world, Christians must proclaim the joy of knowing Our Lord! We love life! We are called to add joy to the life of others as a cook adds salt to make food better!
You know, when my Mom told me “I was the salt of the earth,” I’m not really sure I understood what that meant. But I liked it because Jesus said it. I’m sure you can think of other uses of salt that apply to Christians, but saving the world from corruption and adding flavor to life are pretty good for me! Remember: you are the salt of the earth!
Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty