Today’s Gospel, though short and sweet, is packed with a wealth of wisdom. Jesus uses two examples that were not only familiar then, but also equally recognizable now. Salt and light are “commodities” we use regularly. These two familiar examples give us deep insights into the nature of living a life of mission.
First, a life of mission is essentially a life of selfless service. Both salt and light have it in their essence not to call attention to themselves. If they do, they lose their usefulness to others.
Salt brings out the flavor in food seasoning, but it has to be in the right amount. Too little results in blandness, too much completely eliminates the flavor of what is seasoned.
Light illuminates other objects around it in order to be useful. People do not look at light directly; otherwise, we get blinded by it. Light, at a distance, guides people and sets them on the right direction.
Such is the nature of authentic mission. It never calls attention to the one living out the mission, but always points to the goal and vision of the mission. In our Christian mission, it always leads to Jesus. John the Baptist put it spot on: “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3: 30)
Closely related to this point of mission as selfless service is the double-edged nature of mission. It is a great blessing and potentially a great curse. Gifted missionaries, including Jesus himself, run the risk of being idolized, and thus make the ego a dreaded pitfall, an insidious evil that starts off as a good thing. After a while, it is no longer about the message of the mission, but the messenger that becomes the “star.”Destructive downside
Salt and light have the same nature of being a blessing or a curse. The blessing is all the good it can do to bring out the best, to help, and the curse is its destructive downside.Salt can ruin what should be a delicious meal when it turns too salty. Light can blind, though temporarily, and can cause a mishap. In their most elementary forms, they are both potentially a blessing and a curse. Finally, the fruits of mission using the examples of salt and light. Salt is about excellence, bringing out the best in the other. As I always tell teachers, parents, and anyone to whom another is entrusted to be under one’s care, we must love them into excellence. By our loving them, they, too, become loving persons.
It is by being loved that we become loving, and there is no greater excellence in living out one’s mission than by living it out with greater love.
Light in mission is about overcoming darkness by being a light to others. To shed light on something is to help others see, know and understand. Part of our mission is to be “light in the Lord.” (Ephesians, 5.8) Here, Paul clearly roots and grounds our being light in Jesus himself, thus, we are “light in the Lord.” Our light comes from Jesus and is Jesus himself.
We become light to others through a witness of the quality of our relationship with Jesus. It is this quality of our relationship with Jesus that guides others into discovering and/or deepening the quality of their own relationship with Jesus. “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world.” This is, at one and the same time, Jesus’ call for each and every one of us and an exhortation.
He encourages us to live a life of mission, loving others into excellence, and witnessing in our world and to others the quality of our relationship with Jesus, that they may see in us the love and light of Jesus.—CONTRIBUTED