Shine Jesus Shine
Jesus said, to his followers, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
How many times we have heard this passage about being salt and light in the world. I think about the “losing of taste” that Jesus warns about. What does that mean? The word for that phrase in Greek ismorantha. It’s a past passive form which means “to have grown foolish.” Spiritual truth might be given to a follower grown foolish over the years, and no longer lives it or “gets it.” Salt loses its taste, becomes worthless, and is thrown out on the path.
Last Sunday I spoke about the latest topic of the day: alternative facts. People are having a real hard time to those insisting on “alternative facts” to back up their version of reality. Powerful people can hold to certain ways of looking at reality anytime they wish. But really, so can we, even if we don’t like to admit it. Let me explain:
In the earlier days of the church’s life, especially before the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and urged all people in the empire to do the same, there was a three year process and better preparation for baptism. Before a person was baptized, not after, the Christian catechesis taught and required a catechumen: to let go of anger; to turn the other cheek; to love one’s enemies; to forgive those who hurt you; to forswear oaths; live a chaste life; and trust God for one’s necessities. This change of life was worked out before baptism.
When baptism became a sacramental/social rite with Constantine, it became necessary to learn this new “Way” of life after baptism. People were “saved” first and were baptized without any serious instruction or required conversion. Baptized folks began to hold on to “Alternative facts.” For example, How can I forgive and love my enemies when they do awful things to people, like chop off their heads, etc. We have to defend ourselves from these people don’t we?
Showing mercy and not excluding those who might harm us is very difficult, but this allows the possibility of human well-being and peace. Instead, requiring sacrifice, excluding those who might harm us, scapegoating them, is much easier than dialogue and reconciliation. Point the finger at the problem group, exclude them, and the rest of us will be safer, is the thinking. But part of learning to live a moral life is coming to an awareness of our own hypocrisy and shortcomings. When we point our finger at another, we realize we have three fingers pointing back at ourselves!
Go learn what this means. “What I desire is mercy, not sacrifice.”
Following Jesus is being salt and light in the world. This flavoring and illumination is needed more than ever in the world today. The Church is re-catechizing itself, realizing that most of us didn’t receive much training in what it requires to follow Jesus Christ and be a disciple. At times we must be creative.
When I arrived in Rome as a young seminarian, I was assigned to visit patients in a bone-tuberculosis hospital. My Italian was very poor, so I went from bed to bed, said hello, and began to read a passage of scripture (in Italian) to each person. The patients were very kind to me, despite my lack of fluency, and seemed to enjoy the passages I read. Here’s a timely passage read for us today:
Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the Glory of the Lord will answers; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
We’re playing catch-up in learning what it means to be a disciple. As we encounter the hypocrisy of others we recognize our own. This is an important step, couple with the fact that each Sunday we gather with others and confess the things we have done wrong and the things we have left undone. It’s the most honest thing we do each week. God loves us. God forgives us. God is with us always never let us go. Jesus shines in us!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.