THE SALT OF FAITH
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 KG 17:7-16; MT 5:13-16 ]
Jesus said to His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt has two elements, one is for preservation and the other is for flavouring. So when Jesus asks us to be the salt of the earth, He is telling us that we need to protect our faith and preserve the faith of others in society. But besides merely protecting our faith, we need to add flavor to the lives of others. We are called to enrich one another with the gifts we have received and bring life to all whom we meet each day.
Elijah is a role model with respect to what it means to be the salt of the earth. In the first place, Elijah sought to preserve the purity of the faith of Israel which was contaminated by the import of pagan elements through inter-marriage, especially that of the kings’ foreign wives. So Elijah was sent to King Ahab to help him to regain his faith by showing forth the power of God in bringing about drought in the country; a beautiful symbol of the state of Israel, barren in faith and justice. (cf 1 Kg 17:1)
But he was also asked to strengthen the faith of those who already had faith, as in the case of the widow at Zarephath. The Lord asked him to go to this village in the region of Sidon. There he met the widow who was preparing her last meal as there was nothing left for her and her son to eat. Knowing this, Elijah challenged the woman to total faith in God by sharing with him the little food she had left. In total surrender, she made him a meal saying, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no baked bread, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jug; I am just gathering a stick or two to go and prepare this for myself and my son to eat, and then we shall die.”
The reward of faith was beyond her imagination. When she surrendered everything she had to the Lord, even her life and that of her son, by sharing the little she had with the prophet, the Lord ensured that she and her son had more than enough food to last them throughout the famine. Elijah said, “For thus the Lord speaks, God of Israel: ‘Jar of meal shall not be spent, jug of oil shall not be emptied, before the day when the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.”‘ And indeed, “the jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.” This is what faith is all about, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1) Only when we are ready to surrender our lives to Him completely, even at the prospect of death, will God then show forth His power and provide us all our needs.
However, faith is a growing thing and needs to be reaffirmed again and again. Faith must grow, otherwise it will die. This is the mistake of many newly baptized, and those who attend life-changing retreats but never follow up with their faith. Faith is just like a relationship. If we do not deepen it, it will become stale and eventually the relationship will die. This was true of the widow. Because “some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.” (1 Kg 17:17) At that moment, she lost her faith and accused the prophet, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (1 Kg 17:18) Again, Elijah demonstrated the power of God to give life even to the dead. “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, ‘Look, your son is alive!’ Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’” (1 Kg 17:22-24) Truly, faith given without growth will be easily lost even if we have seen a miracle.
But Elijah could inspire faith only because he was a man of faith himself. This is why the Lord said, “But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.” Elijah had this total faith in God whom he served faithfully. Called by the Lord, he was not fearful even of King Ahab and those who opposed the God of Israel. He trusted in God’s divine providence. So when he prophesied the drought in Israel, God instructed him to “turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” ( 1 Kg 17:3f) God supplied his needs in strange ways even through the ravens, who “brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” (1 Kg 17:6)
If we trust in God, He will send us help in ways that we least expect. He does not give us what we ask according to our plans. But He has His plans and will surprise us by making possible our provisions so that we will never lack what we need. Of course, God does not supply our greed, only our needs. This is why the Lord exhorts us not to worry too much about tomorrow. He said, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mt 6:31-34)
Truly, life is more than just food and clothing. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Mt 6:25) Life is about loving God and serving our fellowmen and putting their interests before ours, like the widow at Zarephath who served the Lord’s prophet. When we are focused on how to serve people, to help others, to reach out to others who are worse off than us, then we will work hard to find the resources not just for ourselves but to share with others as well. When we are absorbed in our own needs, we become paralyzed and think only of ourselves. Instead of reaching out, we become inward-looking and protectionist in our outlook. Many of us fail to realize that God wants to give us through each other.
So what must we do to inspire faith? We must be salted in Jesus! The greatest mistake for many of us is to depend only on ourselves and not in God. Many church members, priests and religious do not pray as hard as they work for God. As a result, they end up working for themselves, their unconscious ambition for success, glory and their own personal interests. We are told that Elijah cried out to the Lord. “He cried out to the Lord, ‘Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?’ ‘Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, ‘Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!’ The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.” (1 Kg 17:20-22) This is what the psalmist says, “It is the Lord who grants favours to those whom he loves; the Lord hears me whenever I call him. Fear him; do not sin: ponder on your bed and be still. ‘What can bring us happiness?’ many say. Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord. You have put into my heart a greater joy than they have from abundance of corn and new wine.”
How do we grow in faith if not by coming to the light? Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house.” To be the light of the world, we must first come to the Light. But many are fearful of the light. Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (Jn 12:46) Only Christ can show us the light and add flavour to our life, protect us in our faith. “Come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.” (1 Pt 2:4f)
Secondly, we must not allow sins to dim our light. Jesus said, “Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” (Jn 12:35f) Faith is lost because of sins. That is why the Church encourages us to go for mass daily, make our daily examen and go for regular confession so that by removing our sins that darken our intellect, we can walk in the light of truth and love. Complacency and sloth lead to backsliding in our faith.
Finally, the best way to overcome darkness is to be the light, as Jesus calls us, “In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.” By announcing the light of Christ and sharing about Jesus with others, our faith will grow. The reasons why many Catholics are so weak in their faith is because they do not share their faith with fellow Catholics and with non-Catholics. The way to evangelize ourselves is to evangelize others! Remember the Lord’s warning, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mt 25:29)
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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