Nina Secviar tells a true story about her preparations for her vacation. Before heading on vacation, I went to a tanning salon. I was under the lights so long the protective eye shades I wore left a big white circle around each eye. Gazing at myself in the mirror the next day, I thought, “Oh no, I look like a clown.” I had almost convinced myself I was overreacting — until I was in line at the grocery store. I felt a tug at my shirt and looked down to see a toddler staring up at me, “Are you giving out balloons?” he asked.
Today, my brothers and sisters, the struggling people of this world do not need balloons. They need light and salt.
In the time of Christ, the Romans had a saying, “There is nothing more useful than sun and salt.” Salt preserves their meat and fish. Bonfires on tops of hills brighten villages. Oil lamps light homes. Soldiers work to become worth their weight in salt, hence our English word, “salary.” When Jesus uses these two images to mirror the Christian life, people listening know the value of these commodities. However, now, I worry that we are losing the power of these two symbols.
Does anyone notice today the connections in the readings? Isaiah the prophet calls us to justice for the hungry, the oppressed, the homeless and the naked. And when we do all of this, Jesus tells us, then we are the salt and the light for the world. But something is wrong. Because the Gospel is not going as planned. I worry that we believe that faith is our fire insurance or a protective wall that insulates us from social issues. As one Christian writer states, we need to get “out of the salt shaker and into the world.” After last Sunday’s mass and homily, did anyone of us climb out of the salt shaker and take a stand on refugees coming to our country? I did, did you? If you did not, may I ask why? Is it your politics? If so, then please, meet Rich McKinless. Some weeks ago, Ashley, his daughter, interviews her father, Rich, for America magazine. He is a card-carrying Republican. He does not vote for democratic presidents. His favorite president is Ronald Reagan. His favorite supreme court justice is the late Antonin Scalia. He thinks that there are too many federal regulations and he is unsure about global warming. With all that in mind, the opening question his daughter asks him is, “Are you worried that you will be arrested for harboring Muslims?” He responds, “I’m not one that dismisses the fears of my fellow countrymen,” he tells his daughter when she asks why he and his wife decide to welcome the Ibrahimi family into their home. “But,” he says “closing our doors to migrants and refugees is not the answer. “We need more Muslims in our country,” he says, “who can be the examples that we can all look to and point to. “That’s an obligation both on us Christians and those of other faiths: to look for those examples, welcome those who love America and what we’re about. And those examples are countless.”
Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth…what happens when salt loses its taste? To be worth our weight in salt we need to get out of the salt shaker and let people witness the real meaning of our faith in Christ. We are lights on hills for all to see. But if we decide to cover up our light with bushel baskets of excuses and politics then the hungry do not eat, the oppressed have no justice and the homeless have nowhere to go.
At this Eucharist, the same Jesus who reminds us to be salty and full of light is the same Christ we receive in Holy Communion. He does not expect us to give people balloons. He wants us to perform justice.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.