Spiritual Life

We become salt and light through works of mercy

BY FATHER WALTER NOLTE

“You are the salt of the earth.” “You are the light of the world.” “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

All three of these simple metaphors have something in common. None of them exists for itself. Salt exists to season and preserve things. Light exists to illuminate the world around it. The city set on a hill is built to be a point of orientation for the surrounding region.

Jesus used these verbal illustrations so that his audience could easily conjure mental images that would help them understand the point he was trying to make. He was subtly preparing his disciples for the task they would soon be given: evangelization. To accomplish this challenging task, they would need to learn how to be in the world but not of the world.

Jesus assigned his disciples the task of working to prevent and cure spiritual corruption in the world by enlightening minds and seasoning hearts with examples of faithfulness that would inspire others to follow them along the path of holiness. Even today, when we speak of a really good person whose life is exemplary, we might say that he or she is the “salt of the earth.” This colloquial expression is directly connected to Jesus’ charge for vibrant discipleship. The disciple who simply blends in with the world neglects the mission to preserve and elevate the presence of God in the world.

The prophet Isaiah teaches us some tangible ways that we can be salt and light for the world around us. Today, we recognize his examples as corporal works of mercy. These include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, visiting the sick and burying the dead. When we intentionally strive to be salt and light through these works, we stand on the rock of our faith and guide others to an encounter with the healing love of Jesus.

I challenge you to perform one of these works of mercy each week between now and Easter and thus fulfill our Savior’s mandate.

Father Walter Nolte is pastor of St. Patrick Parish and president of Archbishop Bergan Catholic Schools in Fremont.