Feb 8, 2020

Prudent - the right measure

Too much salt poisons the flavor. Too much light blinds the eyes. A city too high on a hill becomes unreachable. But the opposite is also true. Too little salt and the food is bland. Too little light and there is darkness. A city placed in a hidden valley is never noticed when you pass by.

We see here the corrosive effects and the regrettable consequences of the extremes of both sides of the spectrum.

This can, of course, be applied to our social interactions with each other when our conversations are never measured, but instead become far too heated, violent and unrealistically idealistic. On the other side, it's when we presume we have nothing meaningful to say to each other, when we are afraid to stand out from the crowd or have lost interest in building upon the strong foundations others have sacrificed for us with their lives.

Of course, the extremes of too little and too much, affect us not only in our lives, in our family life, but also in society and in our nation. It applies to how each individual applies the gifts God has given them, how parents exercise their responsibility to oversee their children, where those in positions of leadership concentrate their efforts and interests. Too much of a good thing is bad for you, the old saying reminds us.

Christ reminds us to be salt of the earth - not too much salt or we become angry fundamentalists. But not too little that no-one would suspect we are even Christians.

Christ reminds us that we are to be a light to the world. Not too much light or we risk becoming self-righteous and conceited. But not too little light and we easily fall into boredom and mediocrity. 

Christ reminds us that we are to be a city on a hill. Too high and we risk shouting down at people and living in a fortress. But if we live underground, we risk being walked over without anyone noticing.

How do we strike the right balance? Maybe it is to take full responsibility for our own souls and for the salvation of others in a way that avoids too much as well as too little. In a world and society that is often so polarized by the tribalism of the right and the left, the conservative and the liberal, the rich and the poor, the native and the newcomer, our natural instincts are always influenced by our sins which either provoke us to anger or to apathy.

What is therefore the right measure of salt, light and Christian witness to the world? 

The Prophet Isaiah who lived in a time when his own land was strife in wars, political turmoil and uncertainty, provided a recipe with the necessary instructions on the right measures to be applied: In the First Reading today he says "share your bread with the poor" - in other words, do not be selfish, we must always be generous in sharing our plentiful blessings with others regardless who they are. 

He continues, "Bring the homeless poor into your house" - in other words, provide a safe place and a welcome to the stranger, the lonely, and yes, even the refugee forced into exile. He continues still, "when you see the naked, cover him" - in other words, see and protect the dignity of your fellow man, also, like you and me created in the image and likeness of God. In short, the right measure of salt, light and Christian witness is what we traditionally call, the corporal works of mercy. 

So when the deacon instructs us at the end of the Mass to go forth, he’s not sending us to the front lines into the heat of the battle. But neither is he telling us to go home and we’ll continue next week where we left off. Instead, we are to go forth, glorifying God with our lives as light for the world and as salt of the earth, but always in the right measure.

Cover and Move

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