In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes two rather startling and thought provoking statements – the passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 5: vv 13-16 reads: ‘Jesus said to his disciples – ‘you are the salt of the earth – your are the light of the world’. How easy it can be for us to pass over that initial phrase- ‘Jesus said to his disciples’ without much notice – yet when we hear those words, and we hear them often in the Gospels, we must cock our ears and listen attentively with our hearts, for Jesus is addressing each of us who are his disciples, individually, this very day in this year of 2011.

Sometimes we hear it said of a person, he or she is truly the salt of the earth, volumes could be filled with the names of such people from the past and in the present, our holy father, Pope Benedict XVI, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, Martin Luther King, to give just a few examples, but also people who have touched our own lives. It is a beautiful characteristic of a person and a wonderful compliment indicating that such a person has a great sensitivity, accomplishing kind and thoughtful deeds and acts of concern in a quiet, unobtrusive way, giving encouragement and affirmation in their own unique way, just as salt used in food disappears from sight as it brings out the goodness in that food. Salt is used in numerous processes in this day and age but in itself, always disappears in the process – for Jesus to speak of his disciples as ‘salt of the earth’ is astonishing and a magnificent sign of the trust he places in us to spread his message of love.

Jesus also says of himself in St. John’s Gospel C8 v12 – ‘I am the light of the world’ and we believe that of course, with all our heart, but when we hear Jesus saying to those of us who are his disciples, ‘you are the light of the world’ most of us may wonder if we are hearing aright!
Again, we could write an endless list of such people, we do not usually go around thinking of ourselves individually as ‘a light of the world’! Perhaps in being so affirming, Jesus is giving us a little prod, a renewed reminder, that he relies on us as we journey through life to be his light among those whom we meet on life’s pathway. We, no less than the famous people, like our father, St. Dominic, who has inherited the very title of ‘light of the Church’ are called to be a light in the little bit of the world in which we have been placed, here in Drogheda or elsewhere, as the case may be. Most of us are not called to be a blinding light but a gentle soft light.

We will never know in this life the light others, even one other, may have received from us simply because we do our humble best to respond to God’s call of love daily.
It may be a little act of kindness, a thoughtful word, a smile a gentle understanding hug and silent prayer when words would be of no avail.
And what is the purpose of all this? Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel – ‘ that our Father in heaven may be praised – that is the amazing and truly wonderful reality of it all.

Blessed John Henry Newman has captured this theme so well in his well known prayer- I quote just a few phrases: ‘Beloved Jesus…penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may be only a radiance of yours…stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine…so to shine as to be a light for others…the light will be you shining on others through me…let me preach you by the evident fullness of the love my heart bears you – give light to the others as well as to me. Let me find you shining in them’.

So Jesus, in calling his disciples salt and light for the world, is surely pleading with us to lose ourselves in him so that he may be free to work through us the wonders of his love in the hearts of those whose lives we touch.