Pastoral Sharings: " The Salt of The Earth"

Rev. James J. Sucholet
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 9, 2014

Dear parishioners and friends of our two parishes,
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
This is the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we continue these Winter weeks in Ordinary Time, we hear once again a challenge from Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ challenges us to become salt, light, and a city on a hill, a beacon to the world.
Salt is almost certainly the oldest seasoning used by the human race. We have archeological evidence of facilities for the refining of salt as early as 6,000 B.C. I have visited the very famous Salt Mine of Wieliczka, about a half hour drive outside the City of Krakow, Poland. It includes many fascinating artistic images and chapels built all out of salt by the miners. Of course, salt was used for more than seasoning: salting was for centuries the only way we had to preserve foods from decay and corruption.
Salt was, in fact, so valuable that a wide variety of cultures have used it for religious purposes. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, salt mixed with water was offered to the pagan gods; in ancient Israel, salt was included in grain offerings and burnt offerings; salt was used to purify and to exorcise demons; but it also symbolized the table fellowship of a shared meal.
So when Jesus tells his followers that they are the salt of the earth, Jesus is, as is the case with any good metaphor, saying a number of things at the same time. True disciples of Jesus give our world its flavor; they are the ones preserving the world from moral decay and corruption; they are a pleasing offering to God; they are a foretaste of the coming day when all humanity will be gathered around the table in the Heavenly Kingdom. But, having told them that they are salt, Jesus also gives a warning, “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” (St. Matthew 5:15).
If disciples of Jesus lose their power to season and preserve, then they will not serve the purpose for which Jesus has called them. Being a follower of Jesus requires ” saltiness,” not bland conformity. Christians should stand out, like a light shining from a hilltop, not to call attention to themselves, but to give always the glory to God. Ask yourself, ” how am I salt?” ” How do I let my light shine?” Let us never lose our flavor, or hide our light.
February gives Catholics some very beautiful Feast Days. Tuesday, February 11th is the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. Blessed Pope John Paul II designated this as the WORLD DAY OF THE SICK. Winter flu, colds, and so many other very serious sicknesses like cancer ravage the body and soul. Let us turn to Our Lady of Lourdes, whose miraculous healing waters and maternal heart has deep affection for the sick.

Saint Valentine, a priest and martyr of Rome, died during the persecution of the Emperor Claudius II, in 270 A.D. The day of his death, which became his feast day, was February 14th. From early Christian times, young men and women on this day declared their love for each other, or chose a ” steady partner” for a certain period of time. Our greeting cards on February 14th are a modern form of this very ancient Christian practice. Thus Saint Valentine became the heavenly patron of youths and young lovers.
They placed their affection, love, courtship and engagement under Saint Valentine’s care and protection. Does it seem unreasonable in the 21st century to suggest that friendship and dating between young Catholics could still be under the special protection of Saint Valentine, the heavenly patron of youths and young lovers?

Perhaps this ancient practice of Rome might prove to be very valuable and helpful if revived again in its full meaning. Parents could certainly draw consolation from the fact that their children are conscious of this heavenly guidance and protection in the months and years of courtship and early love. We have good Catholic families where children are taught to say a prayer to Saint Valentine every night, that he may protect them in their companionships, guide their feelings of love and affection, preserve them from all dangers and strengthen their good intentions. At least on Saint Valentine’s Day, February 14th, if not more often, we should thank God for the precious gift of loving and affectionate friends, for all our married couples and all those couples preparing themselves to receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, imploring Saint Valentine’s intercession and blessing for each one and those to whom we send Valentine cards.
Today is WORLD MARRIAGE DAY, sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. Checkout their informative website: Blessings today! Let us make these celebrations this Winter week a time to renew our commitment to listen to God and respond with willing and very loving hearts. Have a good Sunday and week ahead!
                                                                Father James

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
February 9, 2014

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 13-16
Gospel Summary
Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He adds, “. . . your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father.”

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Shining the Light of His Wisdom
Today’s readings lead us to a discussion of wisdom and light. 

We begin with the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount, from which today’s gospel reading is taken.  Immediately after proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus tells His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.”  Salt of the earth.  He wasn’t speaking about that white stuff in a shaker on the table.  He was speaking about wisdom.  The ancients associated salt with value.  Slaves were often purchased for salt.  The expression, “He’s not worth his salt,” is based on this.

Salt of the Earth, Light of the World
As a teen growing up in a Catholic family, living in one of the most Catholic area of the US, I never would have considered abandoning my faith.  But I also never would have considered getting excited about it either.  Why should I?  Nobody else in my parish seemed to be excited.  The teens in the parish went wild at the rock concerts we attended, and the adults got excited about New Years Eve and Super Bowl parties.

But when I looked around at these same people during Sunday Mass, I saw more blank faces than passionate ones.  So I assumed being Catholic was about denying yourself a bit of fun now so that something really bad wouldn’t happen to you later (namely, hell).  But I did not want a dull life either, so I paid my weekly dues at church and tried to avoid real serious sin as I grabbed for as much gusto as I could.

Pope Francis: The Eucharist Keeps the Church Alive
VATICAN CITY — During his Feb. 5 general audience, Pope Francis spoke on the significance of the sacrament of the Eucharist, explaining that it is a banquet that reminds us of the eternal life that is yet to come.

“The Eucharist configures us in a unique and profound way with Jesus,” the Pope noted, “renewing our heart, our existence and our relationship with him and with our brothers and gives us a foretaste of communion with the Father in the banquet of the King of heaven.”

Justice, Fortitude, Temperance
In justice to God, we uphold vows taken to Him and make sacrifices for the sake of His love, such as accepting martyrdom rather than abandoning the faith.

The second duty in justice is toward our neighbor. A person must not only refrain from doing evil toward his neighbor, but also do what is good toward his neighbor. As such, a person must respect the rights of each person and establish relationships that promote equity among all people and build-up the common good.

The Truth Is Always Pastoral
Canon lawyers are fascinated by the Samaritan woman at the well. The moment we hear about her five husbands, and her consort, we start thinking about how her case might be handled at the marriage tribunal. But the most instructive part of the story is how Jesus relates to her: he is kind to her, and respectful, but he is unabashed about telling her the truth.

The Hypocrisy Trap
It is so easy to fall into hypocrisy. External, commitment-free religious practices can feel consoling, but they can also become a serious trap. In Isaiah 58, the Lord warns his people against empty worship. Their temptation was to pray, fast, and discuss religious things without backing them up with practical moral action. The prophet’s words make clear that God despises hypocritical, insincere religion.

The Great Family of the Heavy-Hearted
I read about a young man paralyzed in a freak accident. The story gave a glimpse of his grief and sorrow. It’s been just a year since his accident. The terrible prospect of permanent disability is beginning to sink in and it’s breaking his heart. He told the reporter, “It’s really, really hard.” And so it is. Life with catastrophic disability is a hard journey. I know, I’ve lived with degenerative multiple sclerosis for 30 years.

Find Your Philosophy of Life
Why are we here in this world? All people have a philosophy of life, even though most are unaware of this truth! Too many today can be compared to a chicken with his head cut off. Still others like sailors tossed in the midst of the storms at sea with no port in view. Then there are those like a dog running madly after his tail, barking frantically and never able to catch his fleeing tail!

If You don’t think you have the fear of death, think again. The Bible says it is the chief doorway that Satan uses
Today is the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade, which effectively legalized abortion on demand.  It’s a time to look back and look ahead.  The abortion struggle of the past four decades teaches a very useful lesson.  Evil talks a lot about “tolerance” when it’s weak.  When evil is strong, real tolerance gets pushed out the door.  And the reason is simple.  Evil cannot bear the counter-witness of truth.  It will not co-exist peacefully with goodness, because evil insists on being seen as right, and worshiped as being right.  Therefore, the good must be made to seem hateful and wrong.

The Mind That Matters
King Solomon, we read in Scripture, possessed wisdom that “excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was the wisest of all men.” In modern parlance, he was, “the smartest guy in the room.”

At least for a while – threatening to cut up the baby to discover the real mother, etc. He was big on government and public works projects as well, and good at them (not just the Temple, though back then you didn’t have to make the case that they were shovel-ready, since you could commandeer the wealth of the nation and had an inexhaustible supply of slave labor.) By the end of his reign, Israel had been transformed into a great nation, Jerusalem into a city of conspicuous wealth and, as a result, not a few problems.

The Rosary’s Joyful Mysteries
Growing up praying the Holy Rosary as a young man, I used to see the joyful mysteries of the Rosary as implying that these are the mysteries in which there was no suffering at all compared to the Sorrowful mysteries. However, on closer meditation of the Scriptures and contemplation of the Gospel scenes, and after some life experiences, I quickly realized that these joyful mysteries, especially the fourth joyful mystery, the Presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple, were all tinged with suffering in one form of another.

Faith and Emotion
“I don’t feel anything when I pray.” “I am bored at Mass.” “When I talk to God, I do not sense that someone is listening.” These laments, experienced at one time or another by both the pious and the lost, rise from the very heart of Christian praxis. They express the natural human desire for vibrant emotion and feeling in prayer, a reality that many often lack, especially as the faith is lived over the years,

Praying While Waiting
Why does God, who is love, keep us waiting? Because He is love, and seeks love. Love that does not know how to wait is not love. To love is to give ourselves. Not only for a fraction of a lifetime, nor with a part of its strength: love is, and seeks, the total gift of self.

Indulgences: An Embarrassment of Riches
A friend recently wrote me of his plans to visit the Holy Land and of his great excitement because it gives him the opportunity to gain plenary indulgences for his deceased parents during the pilgrimage.

When I asked him why he hadn’t tried to obtain one by his weekly holy hour or his family rosary, I was stunned by his response. He was quite irritated that I (supposedly!) had never mentioned this to him before. He thought this should be more widely taught.

The Anatomy of Original Sin: The Sin of Adam was Far More than Eating a Piece of Fruit
Many understandings of Original Sin, the sin committed by Adam and Eve, tend to describe the sin as the eating of a forbidden fruit. While this description is not inaccurate, it is incomplete and many rightly wonder as to how and why all this trouble came from the mere eating of a piece of fruit.

Don’t try to fight Satan by using Satan’s weapons
Don’t try to fight Satan by using Satan’s weapons.

Slander and personal malice are Satan’s weapons.

Ergo, do not use personal attacks against other people, even when they are pro abortion, pro gay marriage, or some other pro or anti that gets your riled.

A Date to Remember
Papal approbation being no bad thing, I was delighted to learn that Pope Francis, in a homily a few weeks ago, had suggested that his congregants learn the date of their baptisms and celebrate it—which is precisely what I have been proposing to audiences around the country this past year, when discussing my book, Evangelical Catholicism.

Get Married, Young Man
For years now, I’ve been interested in World War II. I especially love reading first hand accounts of battle from the heroic and courageous men who fought in this war, such as those contained in books by Marcus Brotherton and Stephen Ambrose.

But stories of valor aside, I’m always entertained by how simply these war veterans viewed dating and marriage. The story of how they met their wives, contained in their biographical sketches, usually goes something like this:

Samurai’s Cause for Beatification Forwarded to Rome
Beginnings and endings, finite measures of years meted out for us again and again, season after season, generation after generation, age after age—all amount to little more than markers of time. The clock strikes and we call it an hour. A calendar page turns while a bud blooms or leaves fall or icicles grow, and we call it a season. A baby is born and we say it is a new generation; teens pound the sidewalk with their pants falling off and we say it is a lost generation; a grandfather dies and we say that he belonged to a good generation. Fashions, inventions, and empires rise and fall, and we call it an age.

7 Amazing Scientific Insights of Biblical Writers
We hear often about the scientific difficulties raised by the Bible, particularly the Old Testament—the six-day creation narrative, the Genesis flood, Jonah being swallowed by a whale, to name but a few of the best known.

But what about those Bible verses that are remarkably consistent with modern scientific discoveries? We never seem to hear much about those. Here are seven of them:


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