In last week's gospel, Matthew gave us the Beatitudes. We often think of the Beatitudes as rewards for different groups of good people. They are not. Rather, they are the characteristics that each of us should strive to embody. One could say they are the steps, in no particular order, that can transform us. As we know Jesus was familiar with the writings of the prophet Isaiah. In today's first reading Isaiah gives us an instance of the Hebrew Scriptural basis of Jesus' teaching in last Sunday's and this Sunday's gospel reading as well as the corporal works of mercy.
Isaiah counsels us to share our bread with the hungry, to shelter the oppressed and the homeless; to clothe the naked, to remove oppression, false accusations and malicious speech from our communities. Then, Isaiah tells us, not only will our light break forth like the dawn but also, a light shall rise for us in the darkness and our gloom will become like midday.
In today's gospel reading, which follows immediately after the Beatitudes, Matthew tells us we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As Richard Rohr says, we must keep in mind that salt is not the whole meal. To be salt of the earth is not to be better than others but to enrich the lives of others as salt enriches the flavour of a meal. If we do nothing for the good of others, we are like salt that has lost its flavour and therefore, useless. As always it is not big deeds that define us. Rather, it is how we are in the world. For example, take Isaiah's suggestion to “satify, or as some translations say, 'satisfy the needs' of the afflicted.” This could be as simple as giving a friendly smile to a woman who is wearing a hijab or planting indigenous plants in your garden that will attract bees or setting up a compost bin designed for apartments if you live in an apartment. To be salt includes the small efforts we make on behalf of our relatives human and non-human.
Isaiah has already told us that when we share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked, remove oppression, false accusations and malicious speech from our communities near and far, we become the light of the world. Some of these are things we can't do alone. We can either do them as a group or support, in various ways, groups that do. There is a lot of social justice work to be done in the coming months as political decisions at odds with the common good are being made south of the border and here at home. One example is the approval of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, which signals a call to action for the defense of our waters and the creatures that inhabit them. Another is the increase in Islamaphobia because of statements and policies being made south of the border, that have given licence to hate to those so inclined. Today's gospel tells us that our light must shine before others, [so] that they may see our good deeds and glorify [God]. In other words, Matthew is reminding us that the good we do can influence others to do good as well but also that the good we do should be based on our love of our Creator and all the Creator's works.
As salt and light we are called to shed any apathy we may still have, and live the gospel. But our activism needs to have a firm basis in prayer and contemplation so that we are strengthened and healed as we work for political policies that are just and in the interest of the common good. We need an activism based on a firm foundation of spiritual values as we work for the strength and healing of Mother Earth and her children.