Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A: Homily by Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 58: 7-10; Ps 112:4—9; 1 Cor 2:1-5 and Matt 5:13-16
Shining like the Light and Tasting Like the Salt
The Metaphors of Light and Salt in today’s Bible lessons remind us of our calling to imitate Christ by being fair, charitable and just in dealing with one another. Light in our faith tradition always represent God, goodness prosperity and good fortunes (Zeph 3:14-20). It is a symbol of Jesus which he teaches us in the 27 books of the NT which fulfils the Old Covenant,and as taught by the Church (cf Vat II Lument Gentium). In John chapter 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in dark but will have the light of life.” Darkness is the opposite of this life of light in Christ (cf Udoekpo, Zephaniah, 134-135). It symbolizes disorder and all kinds of misfortunes. Salt not only make our food tasty, it prevent corruption- “resist evil- bacteria” (Gen 1:1-5), a symbol of the power of God. We are call today to reevaluate our imitation of our lives in the light of Christ by showing good examples, treating one another well and living the faith.
The readings remind us of our Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy. Remember, particularly those Corporal works of mercy and social responsibilities such as, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, harboring the harbor-less, visiting with the sick, the imprisoned, burying and praying for those gone before us marked with the sign of faith.
This is particularly close to the first reading of today, when Isaiah says: “share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own... Then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (Isa 58:7-8).
Here the Prophet Isaiah is addressing a situation in a community of those who had come back from exile and are beginning a new life, hoping and watching to experience the full fulfillment of what God promise them. But in the first place remember it was injustice, dishonoring God, idolatry, sin and disobedience to God that had first brought Israel to exile. It was a nightmare for them.
But the remnant, the survivors who would wake up on the other side of this nightmare and have the opportunity to see themselves as “come babies/children” in the Lord with a spirit of renewal and light of healing are reminded that God is always committed to his covenant of love, blessings and justice. And God expects them- that is us to participate in these maintenance of love and justice, in being that light the breaks through the cloud of evil and darkness.
The people of Isaiah’s time understood that to be righteous, to keep justice was not unconnected with keeping the Sabbath-(worshipping God (Isa 56), showing solidarity and comforting those who mourn for whatever reason: sickness, death, misfortunes (Isaiah 57). This comes with God’s continuous blessings symbolize by light. They were also encouraged to fast from sins and evils that represent darkness, to repent, pray and show a sense of thankful belonging to the same community that survived the humiliation of exile (Isa 58).
We are talking about human beings. Many of them drifted away from the goal of true fasting with prayer to abuse of religion and self- righteousness (Isa 58:1-6). The particular message of Isaiah is that fasting, and love of God must be coated with true spirit of change and renewal, especially turning away from exploitation, disorder of darkness and quarrelling that St. Paul would also confront in the Church in Corinth (I Cor 1–2). It is not enough to go about fasting or living the external rituals, but must adapt a life style where darkness of selfishness and greed is given up to life style of light of charity and temperance in Christ Jesus.
Isaiah’s message is clearly similar to that of Christ in today’s Gospel, a continuation of the Sermon on the Mountain (Matt 13-16) we started reading last week. After describing the righteousness and the distinctive marks of the disciples Christ tells them that they are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
Somebody once said, to me “Michael I hope Jesus was not teaching Chemistry.”? Not at all! But the question is all about, how as Disciples of Christ do we maintain the taste of Christ, his values and the distinctiveness of his flavor of love and charity. We want to prevent corruption of the faith and truth and live the spiritual works of mercy- instructing even the ignorant, counseling those who are in doubt of the word of God, forgiving those who hurt us and bearing wrong patiently not with violent.
By this we do not want to parade our good deeds but to channel attention to God and give glory to Jesus. In the midst of the familiar challenges of our time we want to keep showing good examples in our homes, families, schools and at work. The life of a Christian man, woman and child is that by which our neighbors recognize Christ in us. And we want to ask ourselves quietly (don’t say it aloud) in the private prayer of our hearts whether my brother, sister, husband or wife, friend, school and workmates or our companion are mostly likely to move or jump up to give glory to God when the observe our spoken and unspoken conducts. Can they discern in us the shining Light of Christ or taste in us the valuable Flavor of our Lord Jesus.?
Peace be with you