It has become convention to give the portrait of a holy person a halo. This represents the truth that the person was, in an especial way, a light to the world, a beacon of guiding light in the darkness. The Sermon on the Mount which is continued in today’s gospel sets this standard for all of us. We are all called to be holy, to be light to the world and salt to the earth. We are called to be a visible witness to the world of the truth and goodness of Christian living. We are not to hide our faith like a light hidden under a bushel or to camouflage it so that it is invisible, like the city built into the side of a hill. We are called to be light to the world. Our faith is to be visible, not overly private. We can be too shy and too easily embarrassed in speaking of matters of faith. There used to be an old poster asking the question, ‘If you were being convicted for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’ The witness of our lives is to unashamedly give light and direction to others by the way we live and by the standards we aspire to.
Salt brings out the best in food and keeps it from corruption. It was commonly sprinkled on offerings and it is still spread on holy water. The image of a people who are salt to the earth draws out the possibility of a community of people who contribute to the world and shape the life of those around them in a manner which brings out the best in others. Salt without flavour and people without care and commitment leads to a very insipid, possible even a corrupt existence. Salt preserves from corruption. Salt adds to the flavour of food and brings out its taste yet salt that has gone off is worthless and is trodden underfoot. We are to be a people that brings out the best in others, that preserves them from corruption, a people that enhances all we touch.
What are we to do then to be salt to the earth and light to the world? Isaiah sums up the whole Old Testament tradition and the kernel of Christ’s teaching. He teaches:
Share with the hungry/ Shelter the homeless/ Do not turn away from your own people.
Get rid of the yoke of oppression on people’s shoulders
Do away with violence in speech and act.
Then, he prophecies:
Your light will shine like the dawn. Your wound will quickly be healed over
Your integrity will go before you
God’s glory will be behind you
Your prayer will be answered
Your shadows will be dispersed.
We are challenged to do these things while still in the world so that at the end, the light of our lives may swell into eternal light and the salt of our good works and incorruptibility may preserve us for eternal life and light.