What does it mean to be salt and light? If we listen carefully to Jesus’ words, we gain some direction. To be salt means to bring taste, zest, and joy to life. We are asked to liven things up a bit by allowing the joy of our faith to spill over into the lives of others. Only a sincere and deep relationship with God can freshen up humanity and set it on proper course. To be light means that our faith must translate into action so that we can be Christ for others and extend the same arm of mercy and compassion that Christ did. Our acts of piety, then, cannot be directed solely at ourselves. Prayer is never about self-benefit but must always be directed toward union with God, deepening our relationships with one another and learning how to be effective stewards of the beautiful universe God has entrusted to our care.
The Master gives us wise direction in terms of how we can best become the salt and light he desires. Listen carefully to the Beatitudes. Think about the oppression and alienation that exists in our world, the violence and prejudice, the anger and the hatred, the fear and the shame. All of these things require action. The poor need food, housing, and clothes. Hatred must be replaced by love. Retaliation and violence by forgiveness. Our thoughts and speech can become more like Christ. We can change and continue to change. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman said, “To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
But it doesn’t end with just offering the bandages needed to heal wounds. It must go deeper. We must ask ourselves what has happened that we have found ourselves in this place with these wounds and divisions. What are their causes? Together we must address these systemic problems, politically and spiritually, and face the truth. Only then will we truly be salt and light. But then again, we may not like what the light shows us.