Sunday, 5 February 2017 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day from the Sacred Scriptures all of us received a challenge from the Lord our God. He issued us all the challenge to be true Christians, that is to be His true followers, as all those who truly practice what He had taught us all through His Church, that we become those who live out our faith and not just merely reciting our Creed and pretend to believe, but yet in our hearts there is no place for God.

In the Gospel today, we heard the famous parable and teaching of Jesus, which is often known as the parable of the salt and the light, when Jesus explained using the example of salt and light, to urge all of His followers to be salt of the earth and to be light of the world. In our world today, so filled with good things, with convenience and pleasantries, we may often not realise just how significant these two things were for the people of that time.

Why is this so? In our world today, salt is ever present and are readily available, as the technique to make it easily and cheaply had been mastered by men, and we used it with abandon on our food, that we often do not realise the significance of salt. In the similar way, the prevalence of electricity and lightbulbs, and all other iridescent human-made light sources, light had been something that we often take for granted as something that is always available.

Salt and light are two very important commodities of Jesus’ time, at a time when refrigeration are not readily available and when electricity have yet to be discovered for more than a millennia. It was a world that constantly needed to deal with rotten foods as well as darkened nights without light. That was where salt and light came into the lives of those people, as the two things that made their lives much better.

For salt is used in preservation of foods just as much as they give good flavour to the food. With salt, food that used to be tasteless and easily spoil can be kept for longer and also tastes better. It has made mankind’s life much easier and indeed in some cases, could have become a lifesaver when there was no food at all in the middle of the desert. Thus in this context, the importance of salt as highlighted by Jesus in His parable cannot be underestimated.

And then how about light? Light was important because darkness exists when there was no light, when the sun was down and when the moon and the stars were not bright enough to sufficiently illuminate the dark paths and places. It was not like today when we live in a world saturated by light everywhere. As some of our brethren in some parts of the world are still experiencing to this very day, light was indeed very precious.

Many had to rely on candlelight for anything that they want to do after dark, and as we know candles can be a great fire hazard at the time when houses were made from wooden or any other easily flammable materials. To have light at that time would be a great privilege, but also could be a great danger. Candles were also expensive, and they needed to be replaced every time they were burnt out. That was why many poor people had to contend with living in the darkness for much of the half of the day during night.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, have we seen the significance of why Jesus our Lord used the example of salt and light in bringing about His points to the people? He used these two examples, calling all of the people to become salt of the earth and light of the world because these are among the things that people truly value at that time. And therefore what He taught them would be more easily accepted and understood.

Now, let us delve into what He had said in that parable, that when salt had lost its saltiness, it became useless. Indeed, as mentioned, salt is used because of its flavourful properties and preservative abilities, which is due to its saltiness. If somehow these properties are gone, then they are no more useful than grains of sand. No one will use salt that is no longer salty.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? This saltiness refers to our faith. Our faith must be living and real, and cannot be dead and dysfunctional. Faith cannot be just merely on paper alone, that we say that we are one of the faithful, and yet, in our actions we do things that are contrary to our faith and to the teachings of our Lord. This is our saltiness, the saltiness of our faith. Without faith, we are pretty much dead, and without good works, our faith is equally dead.

Then we should ask ourselves, whether we have this flavour of our faith ready inside us? If we have not had this saltiness inside us, then maybe it is time that we should renew our ‘saltiness’, that is by renewing our faith. Have we been obedient to God and have we done what He had asked us to do? To love our brethren and to show care and compassion for the weak, for the oppressed and for the unloved ones? This is what we exactly need to do, so that we may have that ‘salt’ of faith in us.

In the same manner, we must be light of the world as Christ had mentioned. We must be light in the sense that light penetrates the grip of darkness on our eyes, allowing eyes that once could not see because of the dark conditions to be able to see because of the light. And as light, we are guides for those who are still in the darkness, so that through our actions, we may inspire others to also follow in our footsteps, believing in God and therefore attain salvation together in us.

This is related to what we have just discussed about the ‘saltiness’ of our faith, in that, we must do good deeds and good works in accordance with what we believe in God, and then, as we do these, we must not be afraid, but must be forthcoming and be courageous in doing them, giving the example for many others to follow. This is what Jesus meant by the words He said, that a light ought not to be hidden, but instead should be put on a lampstand for all to see its light.

It means that our faith must be exemplary and good, and be visible for all to see. It does not mean that we must boast of our faith, but rather, we must not be afraid to lead others to follow the Lord as we ourselves had done, by leading them with good examples and teaching them with courage and zeal on how to become a good disciple and follower of our God. We must be good role models for one another, and help each other in keeping ourselves worthy and pure before God.

We should remember what the prophet Isaiah had mentioned in his Book, our first reading today, that we should share our food with the poor, bring to our house the homeless, caring for all those who are unloved and rejected. This is our mission as Christians, which unfortunately many of us have not been able to do because of our various excuses in life. We have always used fear, doubt, as well as laziness, pride and other irresponsible reasons to make excuses so as not to do what God had commanded us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on this Sunday’s readings from the Sacred Scriptures, let us all therefore sincerely and fervently pray to the Lord, that He may give us the strength to renew our faith, that we may awaken in us the desire to care and love for one another, to stand up for our faith when the need arises, and therefore, give new ‘flavour’ and ‘saltiness’ to our faith, and then, be examples to one another, as light of the world, guiding many others on their way to God.

May the Lord bless us all and all of our good works. May He protect us and strengthen us, that we may continue to persevere and do what He had asked us to do, so that in the end of it all, we may receive the crown of eternal glory, having been found worthy by Him, Who sees in us the worth of the ‘salt’ of our faith and the unquenchable and strong light of faith and love present in each and every one of us who call themselves as Christians, God’s own beloved people. Amen.

Sunday, 5 February 2017 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Matthew 5 : 13-16

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It has become useless. It can only be thrown away and people will trample on it.”

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and covers it; instead it is put on a lampstand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before others, so that they may see the good you do and praise your Father in heaven.”

Sunday, 5 February 2017 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
1 Corinthians 2 : 1-5

When I came to reveal to you the mystery of God’s plan I did not count on eloquence or on a show of learning. I was determined not to know anything among you but Jesus, the Messiah, and a crucified Messiah. I myself came weak, fearful and trembling; my words and preaching were not brilliant or clever to win listeners.

It was, rather, a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might be a matter not of human wisdom, but of God’s power.

Sunday, 5 February 2017 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Psalm 111 : 4-5, 6-7, 8a and 9

The Lord is for the righteous a Light in the darkness, He is kind, merciful and upright. It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty.

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever. He has no fear of evil news, for his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.

His heart is confident, he needs not fear. He gives generously to the poor, his merits will last forever and his head will be raised in honour.

Sunday, 5 February 2017 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green
Isaiah 58 : 7-10

Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin. Then will your light break forth as the dawn and your healing come in a flash. Your righteousness will be your vanguard, the Glory of YHVH your rearguard.

Then you will call and YHVH will answer, you will cry and He will say, I am here. If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word, if you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon.