Life & Soul

A broken people discover their deepest identity

Fifth Sunday of the Year
Is 58:7-10; 1 Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16 (Year A)

“Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor. Clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin. Then will your light shine like the dawn.”

These words were spoken to a struggling Israel as she sought to re-establish herself following the devastation of destruction and exile. They had lost everything, and in such circumstances the tendency is to turn inwards, to put survival above all else. The prophet called them to reach beyond themselves, to share the little they had with the hungry and the poor, to heal all family divisions. “Then will your light rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like noon.”

Only in this way would a broken people discover their deepest identity as the chosen people of a compassionate God. In the fullness of time Jesus would emphasise this invitation to a selfless heart: “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, for I was hungry and you gave me food, naked and you clothed me, a stranger and you made me welcome.”

The glory of God was to be revealed in the compassion of his people. It was in this sense that Jesus exhorted his disciples to become as salt to the earth and light to the world: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? You are the light of the world. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub.”

If we are to become a light that proclaims Christ, we must first acknowledge and surrender our darkness to him. When faith has lost its savour, he alone restores its taste. Jesus never proposed that his disciples would, in themselves, become that light for which the world longs. Rather, he invited us to walk in his light, to become as Moses, whose face shone with the presence of God. We are to be and become what his grace alone enables us to be. Then indeed shall we become light to the world and salt to the earth. “In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.”