February 7, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

We are called to be salt and light for those in need

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (cf. Is 58:9-10).

The readings for this weekend, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, challenge us to overcome what Pope Francis calls “the sin of indifference.”

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be salt and light for the world—salt to overcome apathy, light to shine in the darkness.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Jesus is his compassion. Our Lord cares about us. He is never indifferent to the suffering of others, and frequently, he is moved with pity; his heart aches for the poor, for those who are afflicted with physical and mental diseases, and even for sinners. There is no apathy in Jesus. He cares deeply about everyone, and he doesn’t keep his compassion to himself. He acts—to feed the hungry, to cure the sick and to forgive sins.

We might say that Jesus’ compassion is what makes him stand out. He is a shining light on our world’s darkness because he cares so deeply. He is like salt—an essential preservative in the days before refrigeration as well as a condiment that enhances flavor—because he brings out the best in us no matter how badly we have been spoiled by our selfishness and sin.

This Sunday’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah (Is 58:7-10) admonishes us: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and 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!” (Is 58:7-9) This is the Golden Rule: We must treat others as we wish to be treated.

If we care about others, our own needs will be met. If we selfishly refuse to help our sisters and brothers in need, we become insipid, like salt that has lost its power. As Jesus says in this Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:13-16), “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Mt 5:13).

Our indifference causes us to become uncaring, no longer able to help others in their time of need. Jesus counters our indifference with his compassion, his ability to “suffer with” his brothers and sisters. Where we are paralyzed by apathy, Jesus never turns his back on his own.

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus tells us. “A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14-16).

In our indifference, we hide under cover of darkness. We fail to act as Jesus demands, and we deny the truth about ourselves. Instead of acting with care and compassion, we timidly hold back telling ourselves that someone else will do what we are too afraid to do: care for the least of these sisters and brothers of Jesus.

In this Sunday’s second reading (1 Cor 2:1-5), St. Paul acknowledges that we cannot do what our Lord commands by our own power. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us bolder than we are by ourselves and who gives us the power we need to act on behalf of others. “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,” St. Paul teaches us, “and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God ” (1 Cor 2:3-5).

To overcome our indifference and to become salt and light for the world, we must surrender our egos and allow the grace of God to empower and enlighten us. Let’s pray for the “weakness, fear and trembling” that brings us to our knees and allows us to let the Holy Spirit do what we are too proud, frightened or indifferent to do: care deeply for our brothers and sisters in need. †

Local site Links: