Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

Alvin D. Paligutan, O.S.A.
Villanova Preparatory Schoo;
Ojai, California

Readings
Is 58: 7-10
Ps 112: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
! Cor 2: 1-5
Mt 5: 13-16

Salt of the Earth and Lights of the World

One of the greatest pilgrimage sites in the world today is that of Lourdes, France. Every year, five million people of all faiths and backgrounds travel to this southern French town to pray at the grotto where Mary, the Mother of God, appeared in 1858 to a young peasant girl, now St. Bernadette Soubirous. Since March 1, 1858, the Church has recognized 65 miracles at Lourdes. Approximately five thousand inexplicable healings have also taken place. More amazing, though, are the millions of moral and spiritual healings that pilgrims experience each year at Lourdes. These are the greatest miracles. Many people with all sorts of special needs have been coming to Lourdes since then.

In the summer of 2009, on a pilgrimage and personal retreat in Lourdes, I was very much impressed by the army of volunteers tending to people with special needs, disabilities and the elderly. These volunteers pushed people in their wheelchairs, making sure that they attended various liturgies and services at the Basilica Church of the Immaculate Conception, such as Masses, Eucharistic processions, special blessings, and so forth.

In our first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, our Lord God talks about the need to share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked and not turn our backs on our brothers and sisters who need our help. The volunteers whom I witnessed in Lourdes practically did just that. Many volunteers helped the sick, the elderly and those with special needs with their meals, brought them back to their lodgings, helped them in their wheelchairs, and basically cared for them.

These volunteers and the infirm and people with disabilities were salt and light for each other. This gave me a new perspective on what it means to be salt and light to each other. We hear this in Matthew’s Gospel today, when Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth and light of the world.” With these words of Jesus, we might be tempted to position ourselves to be noticed. But that’s not Jesus’ point. What we do, the ways in which we care for one another and help those in need, points to the Kingdom of God, not to ourselves.

Once we turn on a light in a room, our attention is drawn to what is illuminated, and not necessarily to the source of the light, like the light bulb or lamp. Once we add salt to a meal, all its flavor emerges. Too much light is blinding and too much salt spoils a dish. Instead, we are to live out our response to the Kingdom in such a way as to give glory to God.