Not to make light of the Scripture just proclaimed, I would like to share with you the next verses after today’s reading – which liturgists omitted when they organized the Lectionary. We do get them sometime during the year. But, they will not be read next Sunday –They are too rich, I believe, to let them slip from our attention.
Everyone will be purified by fire, as a sacrifice is purified by salt. Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? (I like the translation that says “if salt become insipid.” “Insipid” is a rich descriptive word. If a person become “insipid” how can her tang be restored?
Everyone knows about salt. It has an interesting taste, doesn’t it? I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like at least a hint of salt. We use it every day to make our food tastier – even when the doctor dictates against it, most people crave it.
On the other hand, many of people are picky about spices. Some think food is distasteful unless it’s pepper-hot. The mere thought of hot spicy foods ties my stomach in a huge knot. I marvel at people who devour a whole jalapeno pepper.
Making food taste better is just one of many uses for salt. Reader’s Digest lists 60 everyday uses. I will not boar you – or entertain you with them all – just a few. It can be used to end an ant parade, deodorize your shoes, clean flower residue from a vase, freshen up artificial flowers, remove water rings from furniture, extinguish a grease fire, or a cloth soaked in salt water will prevent cheese from getting moldy. Remember S. Bernadette’s big dye pot! Well, salt is used in fixing the dye in fabric. Without salt, the bright colors that we wear today would quickly fade. It’s used in the production of over 14,000 different products – for instance in the making leather products. Each year, food companies use an amount of salt that is every bit as staggering as it sounds: 5 billion pounds
The usefulness of salt was a well-known fact prior to the time that Jesus walked this earth. At one time, salt was so important and valuable that people were paid with salt. Thus came the expression “are you worth your salt?” Is it any wonder that Jesus told us that we were to be like salt to the world? Listen to the words of Jesus. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” I think that he was saying that we should “salt” that is, flavor our world with love and that we should allow him to use us in making the world a better place.
Recently S. Elizabeth shared with me an Indian folk tale about salt. A Google search revealed that every culture has a variation of the tale – most have a princess (not a prince) as the main character.
The story line goes: Once upon a time there was a king who had several daughters. He was trying to decide which should inherit the kingdom. So he asked each one, “How do you love me?
The first three daughters answer: “I love you as sugar or honey and sherbet. ” To the last and youngest the king asked, “And how do you love me?” “I love you as salt.” On hearing the answer of his youngest daughter the king frowned, and, as she persisted in repeating it, the king was no longer listening and waved her away.
Some time later the daughter ordered the cook to prepare a meal for her father but not to add salt to any of the food. When the king sat down to eat, the first course included only sweets which he either passed by altogether or merely picked at with displeasure. Next he was served meat, which he usually enjoyed but this was AWFUL and he waved it away. But, he was very hungry, and was longing sorely for something which he could eat. The princess sent him a dish of common spinach, seasoned with salt, coarse salt such as farmers eat. The king signified his pleasure by finishing off the dish with relish.
Then the princess stepped forward to reveal herself saying, “Oh my father, I do love you so. I love you as salt. My love may be homely, but it is true, genuine and lasting.
Thus, as the saying goes, were the Scriptures fulfilled: let us “Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another.”
Certainly, Pope Francis is proving to be a “salty” personality. He speaks gently, with a voice of persuasion – not just to Catholics, or some denomination, not just to Christians nor his immediate audiences but to ALL peoples. As one columnist put it, he teaches the Gospel, not the catechism.
How about you? Are you allowing Jesus to use you to be salt to the world? How are you flavoring the world? Are you an irritant rubbing salt in the wound? Or are you a soothing poultice held lovingly to a tender hurt? Are you worth your salt? Are we drying the salt of tears for the abused? Salt seasons soup in order to fulfill its purpose Remember salt is no good by itself – it takes companionship to bring out its flavor? In whose life are you bringing out the flavor; who is salting your life?