5 Feb 2023 – 5th Sunday, (A)

5 Feb 2023 – 5th Sunday, (A)

Theme: Salt and Light

Tyranny and oppression still flourish in many places abroad; and in less spectacular fashion closer to home. Unfairness and structural abuse often stare us in the face, such as long-term poverty, unemployment and homelessness. Christ invites us to solidarity with people in dire need. How seriously do we take his challenge to be Salt of the earth and shine some Light in our world?

(1) Isaiah 58:6-10

To be right in God’s sight we must share our blessings with the poor

Is not this the fast that 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 shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

Responsorial: Psalm 111:4-9

R./: A light rises in the darkness for the upright.

He is a light in the darkness for the upright:
he is generous, merciful and just.
The good man takes pity and lends,
he conducts his affairs with honour. (R./)

The just man will never waver:
he will be remembered for ever.
He has no fear of evil news;
with a firm heart he trusts in the Lord. (R./)

With a steadfast heart he will not fear;
open-handed, he gives to the poor;
his justice stands firm for ever.
His head will be raised in glory. (R./)

(2) 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

We are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, and not by our own merits

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Gospel: Matthew 5:13-16

Salt of the earth; the light of the world

Jesus said to his disciples,
“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 under foot. “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.”


Let your love show

Around the same time that Isaiah was reviving a living faith among the people in Jerusalem, his contemporary up in northern Israel, the prophet Amos, was expressing his fierce indignation about the plight of the poor and needy, who were being denied justice in the courts (Amos 5:7, 10, 12, 15) and whose goods were confiscated (5:11) . In his turn, Isaiah also makes an impassioned cry for social justice. His sense of fairness and sharing comes from his deep sense that God’s creativity and glory fills the whole earth (Isa 6:3) . The divine presence fills not only the temple  but the whole of creation. Yahweh desires human beings to make justice flourish on the earth. To buttress his appeal, Isaiah warns of a coming day of judgment, because of the inhumanity of the great and the powerful towards the weak, poor and helpless.

His people, unfortunately, seemed to prefer formal religion to honesty and justice. Just as Isaiah felt personally cleansed through the burning coal scorching his lips, his people needs cleansing too. They need to change their behaviour, to practice a more honest kind of religion (Isa 1:16-17) . Only if they sincerely try to practice justice can their worship mean anything. Isaiah ends with the promise: “if you feed the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, your light shall rise in the darkness..” (58:10.) Sharing and justice are essential, if we are to please our God.

In calling his people to conversion, John the Baptist echoed the teaching of Isaiah when he said, “Whoever has two coats must share with whoever has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Jesus, too, chose words from Isaiah about mercy and compassion, as his own manifesto. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4: 17-19; Isaiah 61:1)

In today’s Gospel he says “let your light shine before others..” But how can we reconcile “letting our light shine” with the fact that Jesus spent most of his own life quietly in Nazareth, as the son of the carpenter. What Jesus practised at Nazareth was fidelity to the ordinary, the daily routine, which requires its own kind of courage. What sets him apart was anchoring his whole life in God, to let the Father be the guiding force in his life.

The quiet practice of virtue was the hallmark of the saints, who never published their holiness, but just tried to remain close to God, in a spirit of “loving attentive expectancy,” as St John of the Cross put it. This spirit marked the life of saint Therésè of Lisieux, who died at the age of 24, after living as an enclosed nun from her teenage years. Some of the other nuns thought that Therese had achieved nothing at all in her short life. Yet within a generation, this young nun who had never left her convent was proclaimed Patroness of the Foreign Missions. Even from her cloister she let her light shone out. Reflecting on the three virtues that last, faith, hope and love, Therese saw prayerful love as her special mission in life. “In the heart of the Church,” she said, “I shall be love.” And from that loving spirit the grace of God was richly channeled out to the missionary world.

Going to the margins

With the images of salt and light, Jesus says what he expects from his followers. They don’t need to be always thinking about their own interests, their own prestige, their own power. Even though they are a small group in the huge Roman Empire, they are the «salt» and the «light» that the world needs. “You are the salt of the world.” The simple people of Galilee spontaneously knew what he meant. They knew what salt is good for: giving food flavor and conserving it from spoiling. Just so, we need to contribute to helping people find the savour in life. “You are the light of the world.” Without sunlight, our world would stay dark and gloomy. Jesus’ disciples can shine a light to probe the meaning of life, to walk with hope.

These metaphors have something vital in common. If the salt stays in the shaker, it doesn’t do its proper work. Only when it dissolves in the food can it give flavor to what we eat. The same thing happens with light. If it stays closed up and hidden away, it can’t enlighten anyone. Only when it shines out in the dark can it illuminate and guide. A church isolated from the world can be neither salt nor light.

Pope Francis called on catholics today to “go out to the margins.” He preferred a church that is “bruised and dirty because it has been out on the streets” to one that is “clinging to its own security, caught up in a web of procedures.” We can’t hunker down in our structures with passive hope. The Gospel invites us to run the risk of meeting face to face with others. It wants to promote culture of encounter, because what our church needs today is to heal wounds and to warm hearts. (José Antonio Pagola)


  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    Looks like I got the Gospel wrong for tomorrow. I thought we were to hear the ‘antitheses” (‘You have heard it said… but I say to you’). Here are my thoughts anyhow:

    Sermon for Feb 5 2023

    Matthew puts his best foot forward in the Beatitudes (last Sunday), but today’s gospel may seem a downer after that inspiriting start, because Jesus is now laying down the law in no uncertain terms, even mentioning ‘jots and tittles’ that St Paul was supposed to have freed us from and the the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) set aside. Martin Luther, in his quest for a gracious God, distinguished the preaching of Law from the preaching of Gospel, and claimed that the highest art of a Christian pastor or theologian is to know when to apply both. He rather paradoxically saw the Sermon on the Mount as Law rather than Gospel. The preaching of Law has three purposes: to convict us of sin, by making us see how far short we fall of the Law’s perfection, and thus prompting us to turn to the Gospel and its gift of righteousness; to give us guidance in acting righteously once we have been justified by faith; to provide a basis for the good order of civil society.

    What makes the Sermon on the Mount liberating as well as binding is that it regrounds the law of Moses in a law of the heart. Irrespective of external deeds, it asks us if we commit murder in our heart, whenever for example we call a brother or sister a fool (or any other of the choice epithets so lavishly distributed on the Internet, especially in religious blogs). Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses, and the Mount here is a new Sinai. The body of the Gospel, between the infancy and the passion narratives, is organized in five sections of narrative and five sections of teaching (of which the Sermon on the Mount is the first). This echoes the five books of the Mosaic Pentateuch. The mountain of the Transfiguration and the mountain from which the risen Jesus sends his disciples forth to teach all nations echo the mountain of the Sermon. Matthew is no doubt the evangelist most rooted in Jewish tradition (and most polemical in the critiques of distortions of Jewish tradition, in Mt 23, a set of woes contrasting with the Beatitudes). It is good that his Gospel is the first book of the New Testament, as it forms a solid bridge between ancient promise and present salvation, fufiling, not abolishing. The many fulfilled prophecies that dot his text again place Jesus in a Jewish light more clearly than the other Gospels do.

  2. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    Am I the light of the world?

    In today’s Gospel reading our Lord Jesus looks keenly at each one of us and says “You are the light of the world”, “You are the salt of the earth..”. What does salt do? It makes food tastier. Likewise our Lord Jesus is asking us to make people’s lives tastier. He wants us to bring joy to others’ lives.

    Our Lord Jesus does not like our lives to be hidden, but to brighten others lives. He is depending on us to go out and shine for Him in this world. This is a great responsibility for us. We are not here to live in self pity or in depression. We are not here to live with sad faces, grumbling all along, complaining about whatever that causes inconveniences. Let us analyse the life of our Lord Jesus. He did not enjoy any comfort when He was in this world. But He was comfortable wherever He was. We can never feel fully comfortable even if we have all the luxuries in this world. But we can be fully comfortable even when our basic necessities are met. When a person feels that whatever he has is enough for him, he is the richest person in the whole world because he has attained his goal.

    How can we be the light of the world?
    Our Lord Jesus looks at each one of us and says “If you are not the light, then who will be my light in the dark world?” It is a great mission from our Lord Jesus Christ. So we can never feel our lives are insignificant. It is through our lives that our loving Jesus is planning to brighten other’s lives. Never feel bad that your spouse is difficult to handle or your kid is not obeying. Since they need you, God has placed you there. When Israelites suffered, when they were insufficient for themselves, they required a deliverer. So God blessed them with Moses. Similarly, now God blessed them with you.

    Never feel you are little in everyone’s eyes since you have a big purpose in God’s eyes. The world does not recognize you because it does not understand the big purpose God has planned for you. Be close to God, then He can come close to you.

    In 1 Samuel 3 we read the story of how God talks with child Samuel. There God calls “Samuel, Samuel” thrice and finally Samuel will say “Here I am”. There is a place in the Bible where God promises that when we call “God, God”, our God will immediately answer “Here I am”. Where is it? It is our First reading of today, Isaiah 58:6-10. According to this reading, God will say “Here I am” when we share our bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into our house; when we clothe the naked and not hide from our own kin. Cutting short – noticing the needs of others and being quick to help them.

    The Lord says, “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 shall be your rear guard.” If people are harassing us, there is no need for us to raise a finger against them. When we help someone else, God will become our vindicator. When I was undergoing financial constraints, I was praying to God to relieve me from my financial problems. Then God reminded me of one of my kin whose family was in a financial crisis. After praying for them earnestly, my financial burdens went away. My prayers were not answered when I was praying for myself alone. But when I prayed for others who were suffering, God answered my prayers.

    God needs us to take care of His suffering children. He is always searching “Whom will I send? Who will go on behalf of me to help my children? Who is there to take care of my little ones who are persecuted?” Our Lord Jesus cried on seeing the tears of Mary and Martha. He couldn’t see them crying even though He knew that He was going to ‘raise’ them up. Similarly He cannot see any of His own children crying. That is why He is called as God of compassion. Seeing His children suffer is too difficult for Him. It is more difficult for Him to see His children suffering than for us who are undergoing the difficulty.

    Who are the children whom our Lord Jesus likes us to help? Where should we go in search of them?

    Our Lord Jesus wants us to help those who are around us. He does not want us to do a “google search” for people whom we need to help. They are right in front of us. They may not require financial help, but they will require our consolation. They will require those who are thoughtful towards us. If you are having a special child, it means you are a special person for God. God would have been searching for someone who can love without expectations, who can take care of His weak little ones and He has selected you. It is a special anointing from God.

    How sweetly we sing in our churches, “Make me your servant, humble and meek, Lord let me lift up those who are weak..” These are our little weak children from God. Let us continue to be His meek, humble servants.

    Never miss any chance to be a blessing. Our challenges are our chances to be a blessing!!

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