St. Mary of the Angels Sunday OT 5 A 2/9/14
I Corinthians 2.1-5; Matthew
My Brothers and Sisters,
This past week I googled Amazon.Com to search for
books on spirituality. As you might expect, I found listed some of the old
classics like “The Desert Fathers,” “The Imitation of Christ,” “The Cloud of
Unknowing,” and also some more modern books by well known Catholic writers such
as Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, Ronald Rollheiser. But I also came across many, many more titles
- “Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices
to Awaken Heart and Mind.”
- “The Heart of Abundance: A Simple Guide to Appreciating
and Enjoying Life.”
- “A Spirituality of Fundraising?”
- “Four Ways to Master Yourself: Everyone Can Achieve Their
- “The Power Plan: Master the Law of Attraction in Six
- “The Seven Spiritual Habits That Will Change Your
- “The Four Arguments: A Practical Guide to Personal
- “E-Square: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments
That Prove Your Thoughts Create Reality.”
And even: - “The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality.”
As you listened to these titles did you notice that they
share three things in common?
They all focus on ME: my power, my
happiness, my success. They are about
me, me, me!
They are about MY action – what I have to do to
achieve to be happy and fulfilled, and
So many have numbers in them: There are:
7 central practices,
4 ways to master,
6 simple steps,
4 arguments, and
How we love numbers and what they promise! (Like losing 20 lbs. in
30 days!) These so-called spirituality books seem to
imply that we all can become more spiritual in so many days if we just follow
faithfully these relatively few steps or rules.
But in the Gospel today, Jesus says something very
different. Jesus talks about a
spirituality of salt and light. He is
speaking to his disciples and He is speaking to us too. He doesn’t say that we
are to become salt or that we are to become a light. He says, “You (plural)
are the salt of the
earth,” “You are the light of the world.”
Notice the present tense! We are salt because the power of the Holy
Spirit dwells within us. We are light
because Jesus, the Light of the World, dwells within us. In Baptism, both the
Spirit and Jesus claimed
us as salt and light, and they have been transforming us with their salt and
their light ever since. They are the
source of our salt and light. We can’t and don’t do anything to receive
them. We can only be open to receive.
However, we can lose our saltiness and we can hide our
light so that they become ineffective in the world. Then, no one profits from
our salt and light, neither we nor anyone else.
How do we remain salty and give light? God makes this very clear
through the prophet
Isaiah this morning: “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 (He says) your light
shall break forth like the dawn.” And
again, “Then your light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall
become for you like midday.”
You will notice that a spirituality of salt and light,
unlike these other spiritualities, does not focus on us, and is not concerned with
our well-being and growth.
A spirituality of salt and light continually turns to
God for its source and turns to others to express, share and transform. In fact,
however, as we turn to God and to
others, we are transformed, not in quick time and with quick steps, but over
our entire life. True transformation is
a slow process!
I call your attention to two death notices this
One was of Fr. Dan Harrington of my community who
taught Scripture for more than forty years.
He wrote 59 books, hundreds of articles, thousands of abstracts of
articles, and guided countless people in their studies and research. He also
shared faithfully his knowledge and
wisdom every Sunday as he preached at St. Peter’s in Cambridge for 42 years and
at St. Agnes’ in Arlington for 21 years.
Dan shared the salt of his wisdom and the light of his knowledge
willingly and joyfully with so many and for so many years.
How enlivened and enlightened we are because of him!
The other death notice was of a student who committed
suicide in Newton South High. He was the
third student to do so in Newton high schools this year. We can never judge
what happened to him or to
the others. We offer compassion to those
who suffer from this sad loss of life. But
suicide is the ultimate absence of salt and light. Without salt there is only
light there is only darkness. Suicide is
the final act of self-pre-occupation and despair.
But, we can ask: what happened to the salt and light
which they once received? Was that salt
and light nourished in a community of faith?
Were they concerned with the hungry, the hurting and the
homeless of this world? We can never take our salt and light for granted. So,
we keep turning to God in prayer and
sacrament to receive from the source.
And we keep turning to our neighbor in need to share what we have
received, so that, as Jesus says, our good deeds may glorify not ourselves but
our heavenly Father. There in God we
find and will find our salt and light, our peace and joy.
Kenneth J. Hughes, S.J.
Brighton, Mass. 2/9/14