5th. Sunday in Ordinary Time:-Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Christian Is Salt And Light”.
The theme of this Sunday is contained in the two parables of the Gospel. “You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus said to his followers. If that salt loses its flavour, he explained, it becomes worthless. “You are the light of the world.” Jesus then said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. The second reading is related to this theme because Paul states that the good works are the sign of the presence of the Spirit. They are the visible, concrete and physical proof of the truth of the doctrine proclaimed by the Christians. The first reading explains the kind of true fast that the Lord likes. It consists of the following: “share your bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless and clothe the man you see naked”. Our Christian goal must be to relieve stress and impoverishment and suffering. As good as that intention is; our motives must go deeper. We are to see Christ in the poor and disadvantaged. He identifies with them. So must we.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible. These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings. These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings. ‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Isaiah 58:7-10 Fasting is a religious practice known all over the earth to all religions. Even our ancestors, before starting to forge tools and weapons or when preparing for a dangerous hunt, abstained from certain types of food and some did not have sexual intercourse for some days. In ancient times people thought that if there was a situation of danger or suffering, or if a particular accident occurred, it was necessary to perform certain voluntary sacrifices to induce God or supernatural forces to intervene in their favour.
During those days of fasting, people would wear only worn-out clothes or even sack-cloth; they covered their heads with ashes and dust, had to abstain from sex, did not bathe, went barefoot and slept on the bare ground.
The first reading of today refers to one of these difficult situations and the Jews had declared a ‘fast’. The time is about the fifth century before Christ. The people have just returned from their exile in Babylon. They have put their trust in the promises of the prophets, but things are not going well. The rich still oppress the poor, the chiefs are irresponsible, and everywhere there are quarrels and dissensions.
A fast is decreed to beseech God for some improvement, but nothing seems to change and the people begin complaining: why fast if the Lord does not listen to us and does not intervene? The prophet in the reading of today replies: it is not the fault of the Lord; it is your fast that is not good enough. He goes on to explain what is a true fast, the kind that God likes. It consists in the following: “share your bread with the hungry, shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see naked” (7).
The last verse of the passage we read today prepares us for the Gospel’s message. This is what the prophet says: if you fast the way I told you, “your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like noon”. The people of Israel were convinced that they were the light of the whole world and thought it was because of their grand and solemn ceremonies in the Temple, but they were wrong. God is interested only in deeds of ‘love and mercy’. That was the ‘light’ that God wanted to see shining in his people.
The Psalm offers a character-sketch of the just person. He reflects in himself characteristics of God. He is a ‘light’ in the darkness (Ps 27:1) and he looks after the poor (Ps 146:7). He makes his own the compassion and justice of the ‘God of the Covenant’ (Ex 34:6).
1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul wants to ensure that he is not confused with such ‘charlatans’. His preaching did not depend on wisdom and eloquence in their normal sense. His subject was a mystery; that is a secret of God only now revealed, a ‘crucified Christ’ (Rom 16:25). Unlike other philosophers, he was not brash and over-confident but had come among them in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12; 2 Cor 10:1). God’s Holy Spirit was his only resource (1 Thes 1:4).
The Spirit, not Paul’s eloquence was the foundation of the faith of the Corinthians. Some visible facts however had convinced the Corinthians: “a demonstration of the power of the Spirit”. What was that? Had Paul worked miracles?
Probably not! He refers to the works of charity and mercy, to the new life that the message of Christ had aroused. This radical change in Corinth was there for everybody to see.
Matthew 5:13-16. The Israelites had a custom of making a ‘covenant of salt’. It meant that a contract between two parties was sealed by eating a meal together (Nm 18:19; 2 Chr 13:5). This relationship was meant to last and thus prevented them from seeking to harm each other. When the Psalmist laments, “Even the one who ate my bread has turned against me” (Ps 41:10), we can understand the gravity of the betrayal and the breaking of the bonds of friendship. Something similar happens at the ‘Last Supper’ of Jesus with his disciples. Jesus dips his hand into the dish with Judas who is about to betray him, and highlights the gravity of the betrayal that Jesus suffers at the hand of one of his disciples.
When Jesus says: ‘You are the salt of the earth’ he invites Christians to impart a certain flavor to the society in which they live and to help preserve what is good about it. To be actively present in the different areas of life, just as the effect of salt is only felt when it is mixed with food. The presence of Christ in the world can only be felt when we, his followers, mix with others. Though technically salt can never totally lose it flavor, it can become adulterated and weakened. Jesus’ image is simultaneously challenging and frightful. Disciples are like salt, necessary for life, and the call, once heard and given, can never be revoked. If the disciples abuse the call and grace of God, they are no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out.
There can be many reasons why the ‘salt of discipleship’ has lost its taste. It is not so important to go over the reasons, as it is to become aware that something is now missing. The greatest danger is apathy, when we feel nothing and miss nothing. We can never return to the living, joyful experience of God unless first of all we miss it. How can we bring our discipleship back to life? How can we move beyond bitterness or boredom or apathy to a loving experience of God? We cannot be warmed by the fire unless we move close to it; we will have to start searching for the fire, and pursue it, until we come at last to the joyful realization that it is not outside of us, but deep within us.
Light on the contrary to be effective, has to stand out from it surroundings. It shines forth without losing its identity. In the Bible, God is the source of Light and it is in relation to this Light that his creatures can live and be radiant (Ps 34:6). Jesus, because of his unique relationship with the Father, is the Light of God that has come into the world in order to draw us to it.
Images of light span the Bible. After the wind swept over the formless void, the first words spoken by God in the Bible are “Let there be light,” and God saw “how good the light was” (Gen 1:3). The Book of Revelation also says when God will give light to his servants forever (Rev 22:5).
Our relationship with Jesus makes us into children of ‘Light’. We can bring God’s Light to others only if it shines in our own hearts. Are we a praying community? Do we seriously study and pray the Word of God so it will enlighten us in our decisions and actions?
St Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
God is pursuing us too, and, if we make the effort, he will meet us half way.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
5th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. …True fasting was one of the major teachings of the prophets. This practice remains valid for Christians as well. Without charity and good works all religious observances become empty and mere formalism. Our gratuitous love for our neighbour must be put into practice. Real fasting involves putting into action the compassionate justice of God. Mon. … God tells his people that if they take care of their brothers and sisters in need, their light will break forth like the dawn, their wounds will be healed and they will be surrounded by the splendour of God and will be able to live in love and confidence, thanks to God’s presence in their midst. It’s all about loving your neighbour! Tue. … The Church teaches us at least two things. That being the ‘light of the world’ does not consist in standing around looking religious. It involves caring for those who have need of our help and getting our hands dirty in the pursuit of charity and justice for the poor around us. Third Isaiah does not tell us that religious observances are useless. Rather, he says that unless our observances involve compassion and generosity, they are not really religious at all. Wed. … Paul wanted his message to be understood, so he abandoned the rhetoric of the academic circles he had known in his rabbinical education and stuck to “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He subordinated wisdom-talk to the ‘power of the Spirit’ to gather and form the community of faith. Thanks to Paul’s humility, the Corinthians fell in love with Paul’s message and not his mystique or charisma. Thur. … The second century historian Pliny declared that nothing is more useful than salt or sunshine. Yet salt that cannot be tasted and light that cannot shine are absurdities. Jesus warns us that we who call ourselves Christians had better do what is expected of us if we are not to be rendered fruitless. Frid. … Sometimes we all behave as though Baptism saves our souls and Communion sanctifies our hearts, with no action or responsibility required. It is not enough to be ‘salt and light’. We have to be salt ‘of the earth’ and light ‘for the world’. Sat. … The power of the Spirit is in us through the Sacraments. Let Christ-in-you be seen in your attitudes and in your actions drawing others to the glory of God.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, grant to us the grace of ‘True Fasting’ that is the compassion and loving generosity of fulfilling our Christian obligation to the poor and disadvantaged. Help us to see Christ in the poor, widow
and orphan. He identifies with them. So must we.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.