There was a beggar who came every week to ask a very wealthy man for money. Every week the rich man listened to his tale of woe and graciously gave him a generous gift.
But one day the rich man took the beggar aside and said to him: “Listen, my friend, you know I’m going to continue to give you some money every week. You don’t have to convince me anymore. A little less complaining and a little less whining about your situation and we’d both be a lot happier.”
Hearing this, the beggar pulled himself up and stood tall, feeling that his pride had just been attacked.“My good man,” replied the beggar, “I don’t try to teach you how to be a millionaire. Please don’t try to teach me how to be a beggar!”
You and I are a lot like that millionaire and that beggar. “Stop your complaining and your whining” in the case of the beggar. “Don’t try and turn my world upside down and tell me how to live.”
But that is just what Jesus is saying and doing in today’s Gospel (Matt 5:13-16). He is telling us who we are and how we are to live. Jesus is turning our world upside down. “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”
Jesus does not say you are LIKE salt or you are LIKE the light. No. You ARE the salt. You are to do what salt does – give flavor and tang to the lives of others around you. Jesus does not want us to be just good and kind church-goers who don’t make any trouble for others. Jesus wants us to be bold, imaginative and dynamic Christians.
For almost 50 years now I have reflected on the words of the author and psychologist, Eugene Kennedy: “Better to be a lively sinner, than a dull saint!” The lively sinner can always go to Confession. But a dull saint….What do you do with a dull saint? They just take up space in the pew, the classroom, the office, and the dinner table. To Jesus, a dull saint is a contradiction in terms.
“You are the light of the world,” Jesus says to you and to me. Like the sun, we are to light a radiance, a warmth, a spark to family members. neighbors, and yes, even strangers.
The average 4-year old laughs 400 times a day. The average adult laughs 15 times a day. No wonder the grumpy, old grandparents want to go and be with their grandchildren. They want all that laughter of their grandkids to rub off on them.
Glowing like the light of Christ, our good deeds are not just to make us feel good or to help others. Our good deeds are done to give glory to God for having given us life and for all God has done for us.
The major question you and I are left with is HOW? HOW do I become the salt of the earth? HOW do I become the light of the world? HOW?
One person who has taught me HOW to be the salt and the light of the world is a country club golf pro named Pat Kenny. When Pat and I were both in our 20’s and 30’s, I was in need of a new set of golf clubs.
Pat had me try a new set of clubs on the practice tee while he was giving me instructions about my swing. He really changed my grip to the point I was very uncomfortable with my swing. But my drives were going straight and not hooking or slicing like they usually did. But I blurted out: “Pat, this feels so funny.” “Father,”he said to me, “When you swing that driver like that a few hundred times a day or a thousand times a week, I guarantee it won’t feel funny anymore.”
When I say one or two Our Father’s or Hail Mary’s a day, it’s one thing. But when I say two or three rosaries a day, it’s another thing. Recently I was talking to a friend of mine named Gerry who was stuck at the airport all day. Dozens of people were angry at airport personnel behind the counters. Between phone calls Gerry told me he was able to say 15 rosaries at the airport that day! To many irate travelers, seeing Gerry fingering his rosary beads was seeing the light of the world. I know Gerry well. He is not a “holy-roller” or a wimp. He’s a cool, with-it guy who also has a deep spiritual life.
When Pat Kenny was in his 70’s and retired, he told me that he was now giving golf lessons to children with down’s syndrome. Pat said to me,“I’ve given golf lessons for over 50 years. But I’ve never gotten the satisfaction I get today. The kids today might swing 20 times before they hit the ball and it only goes 30 yards. But they are happier than when Phil Mickelson gets off a good drive. And I get to share in their happiness.” Again, Pat the teaching golf pro is retired, but he is still teaching me how to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. A God Provide
A graduate student had just gotten his first job, a desk job, and he felt the job was far below his talents. He was probably right. He complained to his friend, but his friend gave him no sympathy at all.
His friend patted him on the back and said, “You know, the world is a much better place because Michelangelo didn’t say, ‘I don’t do ceilings,’ Moses didn’t say, ‘I don’t do rivers,’ Noah didn’t say, ‘I don’t do arks,’ Mary Magdalene didn’t say, ‘I don’t do feet,’ Paul didn’t say, ‘I don’t do Gentiles,’ and Jesus did not say, ‘I don’t do crosses.’”
We could add: “The world is a better place because four-year old children don’t say, ‘I don’t do laughs,’ Pat Kenny doesn’t say, ‘I don’t do down’s syndrome kids,’ and my friend Gerry doesn’t say, ‘I don’t do rosaries.’” They are the salt of the earth. They are the light of the world.
Who are the people in your life who have shown you HOW to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world?