What an ordinary image Jesus gives us in this passage from Matthew! How very different to the way we describe others and hand out accolades to sportsman, movie stars, politicians and icons. they are rarely described in such ordinary, material terms.
Salt and light. Everyday stuff we take for granted. Salt is in almost everything we eat, it is in the sea, it is in our sweat, it is so passé and everyday. Light makes it possible for us to move around without knocking into things, separates the night from the day, gives vision in the dark and is just there. We dont think about it. We don’t make a big thing about it. We walk into a room and flick the switch or pull back the curtains and there it is.
In the times we find ourselves in, many questions are raised as to how we are to live and whether our living does make a difference. In a world of noise, bravado, bigness and exaggerated success we may find ourselves being belittled for our smallness, our littleness, our seeming powerlessness. People are playing loose with the truth, with facts and with the lives of others in order to protect their own positions or to build or bolster their own egos. People are denying their values and their cultural history for short term gains and accolades. Governments throughout the world, as well as business people of all types, are selling their soul to maintain power, markets and investors. Yes, the obvious example is the President of the United States, but ours and other governments are watching what they say and how they respond so that they too do not become the object of the bully.
Bullying takes many forms and not simply reserved for the one on one relationship. Nations bully nations, politicians bully other world leaders and the use of power in such a way not only fractures unity but demeans those who are the perpetrators of such bullying. Any acquiescence or failure to call out such acts makes us partners in the crime. It is in these moments that we are called on to be the salt and light, even at the risk of our own wellbeing and lives. The greatest evil is not that evil is done but that people stand on the sidelines watching without moving to intervene. Spectators who could change the situation by getting involved but don’t. Again in the world of the smart phone where every person is a video camera operator, people make conscious decisions to video atrocities rather than stepping in to stop the injustice. A quick look at the tv news reminds us of this. A picture may speak a thousand words but an intervention saves lives.
Light and salt are ordinary images, couldn’t Jesus come up with something sexier and more exciting? Why light and salt?
Because being for the mystical transcendent in this life is indeed ordinary and as essential as salt and light. We no longer need to strive to live sin free lives or to be saints of perfection and immaculate conception. We are called simply to live seamlessly in such a way no-one notices but everyone sees the way you live. Being a fully alive human being requires we inculcate the essence of Christ in our ordinary being engaged in the ordinary act of living.
This sounds simple and it is, but it is not easy. Just as we do not think about the role of salt and light , we do not think about how our living is seen, recognised and indeed, impacts the world. We take our lives for granted. We also take our understanding of ourselves and the world for granted, often not being conscious of just how our actions and words impact on others. What is normal and acceptable for us may not be so for others and an innocent comment may in fact not be so innocent when heard through the ears of another. Our harm may be unintentional but it is, nevertheless, harm.
Living intentionally is the essence of the images of salt and light. Living each and every moment with intent and being aware of our intent is vital. It is why many wise people suggest we speak less, listen more; that we use less words and more thought. It is the letting go of the need to be visible and heard above the noise of all the others who have the same need. It is the capacity to fade into the background but remain authentic and real in a world that has ceased to be such. There comes a time in our lives when we begin to understand that all we built is built on sand and all that it is is a monument to being noticed by people who have already forgotten. We are left with a few grains of salt and shafts of light and recognise that this is all that matters.
This is exciting because it allows us to celebrate our incarnation for what it is, our reflection in the transcendence of being. It values our every action and places it within the evolution to wholeness God our creator has set in motion. We do not have to wait to do a big thing, to make a difference or to be recognised. We do make a difference and we are recognised for our enlivened selves.
As I would say to our students, you have everything within in you that you need for your life to make a difference. Just be who God has created you to be, reach within and unlock the transcendent and live your ordinary life to its full with full and focused intention. Minimise your life to maximise your impact, diminish your visibility to increase your presence, become one with all in order to be yourself.
In other words, let your light shine, be the salt that brings to life the wonder of life and the light shining into the darkness all around. There is no magic to this. Just intentionally allow the transcendent empower your being, and as ordinary as you may seem to be, you will add to the extraordinary beauty in the world.