Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Gospel MT 5:13-16
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
What does Jesus mean when he says, “You are the salt of the earth” ? I have heard that expression used to describe other people by saying, ‘they are the salt of the earth.’ In my time this usually meant that they were honest or frank in their opinions about topics. Even though they did not say it with big words, but in simple language.
As I have been attending the PAPA ZOOM Bible Study every Wednesday led by our Spiritual Advisor, Father Michael, I am learning “How to think Catholic” when I read and listen to the Sunday Scripture readings and the Gospel. One of his suggestions is to always go into the Mass and listen to the Readings with a question. So, my question is what did Jesus mean in today’s Gospel?
Father Michael has been teaching us that the context of Jesus’ message is biblically historical and from the cultural perspective of an Israelite during Jesus’ time. I am not a theological scholar, like Father, so I have researched from Catholic sources what do the Catholic scholars say about what Jesus meant.
I found out the value of salt in Jesus' time was much different than today. Salt was significant in the ancient time and in Jesus’ time. It was not only valuable, but it was important for survival and empires sought to control it
What attracted Rome to Israel, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee? Could it be revenue from salt? In Jesus’ time the Sea of Galilee was well known for the fish caught and preserved with salt from the mines of Mt. Sodom or from salt from the Dead Sea. In fact, the city of Magdala was famous for their salted fish. The Romans imported their fish.
To the point, Jesus was speaking to a crowd during the Sermon of the Mount which was close to Magdala, the salting center of the area. When Jesus talks to them about “You are the salt of the earth” He has their attention. Not only because it is important to their livelihood, but because they remember what was taught in the Torah (the Old Testament) about “the salt of the covenant.”
In Leviticus, God instructed that salt was to be offered with all their sacrifices to God. Numbers records there was a “covenant of salt” between Aaron and his line of Levites (priests) and God. Yet, the most important reference to the “salt of the covenant” was in 2 Chronicles when God makes a covenant with David: “Ought you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship for ever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” David also was learned in Hebrew history and he knew that God had also said something like this to his ancestor, Abraham. “Kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you, and to your descendants.” (Genesis 17:7)
Therefore, the crowd listening to Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount would have recognized what Jesus was referring to “the salt of the covenant.” This was God’s promise of salvation made to Abraham, David, and to the Hebrews. Still there is so much more to what Jesus is telling them that we lose it in translation. Some of His message continues to unfold at the Last Supper and the New Covenant, at His Resurrection, and before His Ascension.
In the end at the Last Supper we entered a new salt covenant with Jesus, the Son of God. We receive Jesus Himself. We must carry Him and His Gospel to the ends of the Earth. We "are the salt." We must preserve the Faith like salt preserved the fish at Magdala. We must not let our “apostolic faith” become spoiled, impure, or changed, until He comes again.
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God bless you all!