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Homily for Fifth Sunday, ordinary time A

02 Feb 2023, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

A week ago, we reflected on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where he taught the eight beatitudes. Today’s gospel passage from Matthew’s account is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus summarized his whole teaching, and today he clarifies that the beatitudes cannot be lived in private. It’s just like the ten commandments of God, which Jesus summarized in only two commandments: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. That is what we see in our gospel passage this morning; Jesus summarizes the eight beatitudes into just two; be salt of the earth and light of the world. The blessedness or the happiness of the one who is poor in spirit is expressed in the taste he gives and the brightness he reflects. So also are those who are gentle, those who mourn or regret sin, hunger and thirst for what is right, etc.; they are known by the taste they give and the brightness of their light.

Our first reading this morning shows how to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The background to this passage from the prophet Isaiah is a key to understanding it. The people had returned from their exile but complained against God. They prayed and fasted, but nothing seemed to have changed, so they grumbled; Why have we fasted if you did not see, why mortify ourselves if you never notice (Is. 58:3). The people were tired of praying and fasting because their fasting seemed not productive, not yielding expected results just as many are tired of praying today.

Many Christians today are tempted to ask the same question ancient Israel asked; why has God turned his face from us? Why is he not taking note of our prayer and fast? The people fasted, prayed, and raised their heads so high to heaven, they focused so much on heaven that they took no notice of the darkness and tastelessness of the world around them, yet the Lord says; You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Though some may have been medically advised against salt intake, the significance of salt to man cannot, however, be overemphasized. The best food in the world becomes tasteless and unenjoyable without salt. The earth is like food without salt, and we’ve been called to be the salt of the earth, to give taste to the earth.

In the contemporary world, many people see no reason to remain on earth, the lack of hope has skyrocketed the rate of suicide and assisted death. In the midst of these, we’ve been tasked to give people reasons to stay alive, to give taste to their lives. Similarly, some live in the darkness of error, confusion, and demonic deception. To them, we are called to be light.

Unlike ancient Israel, we must not raise our heads so high in prayer and fasting to ignore our environment’s darkness and tastelessness. God says; Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice heard on high (Is. 58:4). For our prayer and fasting to be heard on high, we must learn to bring down our heads and see the face of God in the faces of those around us, to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin. Then will your light shine like the dawn, and your wound is quickly healed over.  Just as salt purifies and preserves, we are called to clarify and preserve those we come in contact with. Like the light, we are to guide them along the right part. Light is not hidden; we must let it shine to bring glory to God our father. We should make our faith in God contagious; people should see us and see the love of God, people should encounter us and contact the power and love of God. Generosity is not all about material things; one may be generous with material things and not do the same with his time, talent, and energy.

We are challenged once again to let our light shine. Still, there are a lot in our world that seek to quench the light the Holy Spirit has lit in us, but like St. Paul advised Timothy, let us learn to always fan into flames the gifts we received when hands were laid on us.