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A couple of Sundays ago we reflected on the call to follow Jesus as true disciples and the different levels of discipleship where some follow Jesus closely and others from a distance. Last Sunday for the Presentation I spoke about the importance of exercising our religion with great devotion and inspiration so that our Catholic Rituals aren’t boring but are a vibrant part of our relationship with God and a source of grace for the work of evangelization. Today in the Gospel Jesus gives us an image and even a taste of how our discipleship and true religious devotion should affect the world. Jesus tells his disciples that they are salt and light. These two elements are very powerful descriptions of the affect of grace on our human activity.

We know that salt brings flavor to food, makes it taste better, makes it more enjoyable. It also preserves food, makes it last longer and prevents it from spoiling. That’s the effect true Christians have on the world. Just compare cultures that have adopted Godless philosophies and those that were built from Christian tradition. In communist societies, for example, everything looks the same. But in Christian cultures there is beautiful architecture, art, and delicious food. We don’t see it so much in our country besides a St. Patrick Day’s celebration but in Catholic countries there are many festivals of Saints where people fill the streets in celebration. It’s not just fun but inspirational! Christians also, like salt, preserve what is authentic and good in life, like human dignity for all persons, and through the Gospel call people to an even more beautiful state of existence called holiness. It does not take away from humanity but makes it even better. It helps us to love our neighbor and to make peace with our enemies, to serve the poor and protect creation.

But if Christianity brings more flavor to human activity, preserves culture, and acts as a light that shines as an example for the world, why do so many still reject it? Well, it does require letting go of what is bad and embracing something new. Like a child who wants to just eat candy but mom is saying that vegetables are necessary or someone who has been living in living in a cave comes into the light of the outside world and so covers the light at first. It can be like someone who tastes a delicious food but spits it out because their taste buds are disordered. Many still have disorder passions. Or if someone sees a beautiful painting and says that it is ugly because they are used to seeing only a few colors. Some reject the faith because they only look at those who say they are Christian but live contrary to the words of Jesus. Or maybe some are simply full of pride and jealousy and want to distort the truth so that others reject the Catholic Church. The entertainment industry and much of the media paint Christians as people who say everything is bad in order to steal happiness away with meaningless rules. Others say Christianity is fine as long as you keep it private, and it seems that many Christians follow this idea. But we cannot forget that sometimes the rejection of the Catholic Faith is simply just plane old evil versus good, and so the presence of a Christian witness becomes like salt on a wound or a light obscuring the influence of darkness.

A couple examples in the news lately: Little Sisters of the Poor. They are the salt of the earth. Their work brings joy to the sick and the elderly. They wear habits that identify them as brides of Christ who light up the world with God’s love. They also give courage to other Catholics and to all who uphold religious freedom by refusing to follow the new law that tells them to provide insurance coverage for abortion and contraceptive pills for employees. In a recent interview, the president of the U.S. said that it is no big deal for these nuns to sign the government form for the coverage. But for the sisters, this would mean their support of a grave evil and so they would rather face the millions of dollars in fines than sign their souls away. What a great witness these little nuns are to us and the world! They are like a light in the darkness.

Another example: Last week the U.N. made a report that tells the Catholic Church that it needs to 1) change her view on abortion and contraception, 2) end her promotion of traditional marriage, and 3) teach kids how to embrace alternative lifestyles including homosexuality. But the Church’s mission is to protect the sanctity of life, promote pure love through chastity, and preserve the natural order of marriage between a man and a woman. It is the pressure of the world that wants us to taste like everything else and to prevent us from outshining others. To just be Catholic in private and then act differently in public would be to stop being Catholic. If we do, we become like salt that loses its flavor. We become bland like everyone else. There is nothing special in us to improve our lives or the lives of other. And as Jesus said we are “no longer good for anything.” If we give up our faith, the world will throw us out and trample us under foot.

So although there are forces that are at work to darken the light of the Church and lessen the influence of our Christian witness in the world, Jesus said “a city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” The Catholic Church is like the world’s light house that guides all the nations through the stormy seas. So we should be proud to be part of the Church Jesus founded even when it seems that more and more reject it. We should not bend to those who want to put the light of the Gospel under a bushel basket, to tell us to live our faith only in private. Imagine what Mother Teresa would be remembered for if she would have followed the pressure from those who told her that she could only help certain people. She wouldn’t be a saint! Or if John Paul II would have allowed the Polish government to continue to take away the religious freedom of Catholics, he wouldn’t be so great! Or if St. Bernadette allowed the police in Lourdes, France to silence her from saying that Mary appeared to her. We’ll we would not be celebrating the Feast Day of our Lady of Lourdes this Tuesday. As Christians we cannot allow oppression, false accusation and malicious speech to scare us away. As St. Paul says, “our faith does not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.” As disciples of Christ we don’t let the world define our beliefs or our mission.

Our mission is to be salt in a world that has no flavor and light around those who are full of darkness. And we get this mission from the Lord. Our greatest witness is our good deeds. We cannot be saved without works of charity no matter how much faith we have. That is why the Lord tells us from Isaiah the prophet: “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.” This is our mission from God and we should fear offending him before we fear rejection from the world. It is the mission Jesus lived for and it the mission that he died for. So let us put our faith in action and be true Disciples of Christ who are not afraid to be generous with our works of charity for those in need. Let us be joyful witnesses to God’s love across the world, here in America, here in Cedartown, and in our own homes, by simply being faithful to the words Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel: “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Amen.

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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