We are very familiar with this verse from the Gospel, but how should we interpret it and become salt and light? The First Reading this Sunday from Isaiah 58 may help us understand more comprehensively how to be salt and light.
God said, “Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen? Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free.“ This is fasting. It does not just mean to eat less food, but to loose the bands of wickedness, and to do justice and benevolent acts.
Isaiah continued to say, “…bring the needy and the harbourless into thy house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him, and despise not thy own flesh. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall speedily arise. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall hear: thou shalt cry, and he shall say: Here I am.” (Re: Isaiah 58, 6-10)
Thus, fasting does not only mean to eat less and make oneself feel hungry; similarly, to pray does not just mean to pray to God, and to establish a relationship with Him. The Gospel requires us, on top of the God-and-man relationship, to promote the man-and-man relationship, and in the man-to-man relationship, identify the communion with God. This is the true biblical spirit.
Thus, the Bible raises “loose the bands of wickedness, deal thy bread to the hungry and despise not thy own flesh” all these justice and benevolent acts to a worship level, and regards them as real respect to God. It is only when the faithful can do these that light can break forth, and then their prayers can be effective, and at the same time, God shall answer, “Here I am.”
Isaiah continued to say, “If thou wilt take away the chain out of the midst of thee, and cease to stretch out the finger, and to speak that which profiteth not. When thou shalt pour out thy soul to the hungry, and shalt satisfy the afflicted soul then shall thy light rise up in darkness, and thy darkness shall be as the noonday.”
With the inspiration of Isaiah, we can understand a deeper meaning of what the New Testament says: the light of the world. If we want to be the light, we need to know more than the meaning of life, about self sanctification, and not just know how to pray and receive the sacraments. Moreover, we have to learn from Christ about life, about interpersonal relationship and to try to establish a just, peaceful new world so as to shed light on the world, and let people see clearly what is truth and life.
“You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.” Chris-tians have to raise high the value system and ideology of the Gos-pel to light up the world, Christians have to shoulder the respon-sibility of changing the culture and traditions, and not just striv-ing for the salvation of oneself.
Christ our Lord, please help us to become the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Help us to identify the way we should take and that of the world and all humans. You are the savior for the individual, and also the savior of all human beings; you have the power to sanctify the individual, and to sanctify the whole world. Please help us to work with you to sanctify ourselves as well as others; sanctify the individual as well as the whole social system which would affect the quality of our lives.
Fr. Philip Tan