Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
To be salt and light for the world is certainly a tall order. In our most idealistic moments, we can imagine ourselves tackling the grandest challenges of global scale. We have – or had at one time – the capacity to dream big dreams, and the enthusiasm to try to impact the whole world. When Jesus tells us to be salt for the earth and light for the world, then, the dreamer within is awakened. How often the dreamer is met by the pragmatist, though. How often we are reminded of just how small we really are, just how limited our resources turn out to be, and just how challenging it is to scale our dreams to the global level. It is not unusual, with that realization, for one to feel discouraged. With so many obstacles before us, how can we possibly bring the flavor of Christ to a bland world? With so much darkness, how can we make the light of Christ shine brightly for the whole world to see?
The enthusiastic idealist and the discouraged pragmatist might find their common ground in the words our Lord offers in the Gospel today. “A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house” (Mt. 5:14-15). Think of a dark room in your home, and the effect of turning on a lamp that sits on an end table. The rest of the house may be dark, but that room becomes instantly brighter. The purpose of the lamp is to give light right where it is, not to destroy all darkness everywhere. But even while the house may remain dark, the light coming from that one room is enough to follow. The effect of the light becomes stronger the closer we get to the source from which it shines. So long as the light shines there, the darkness is overcome. The lamp, lit and situated according to its purpose is able to give light where light is needed. A lamp on a lamp stand is not expected to light up each and every place where darkness exists, but rather to function according to its purpose, and to shine brightly there.
Whenever we see Jesus send his disciples out, He always sends them out in pairs. They begin their mission close to home, and only later do we see the disciples of the Lord going further afield. While St. Paul made numerous journeys to evangelize and in the process probably saw more of the Mediterranean world than any other disciple, he did not, by any means, go to the whole world. In fact, St. Paul was somewhat disappointed that he didn’t make it to certain places, like Macedonia and what is now Spain. But eventually disciples of Christ made it to those locations and beyond. And so we find two truths that we can hold simultaneously and without contradiction. Jesus sends His disciples into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel, to be salt and light, and He asks His disciples to be salt and light right where they are.
All this means that if we find in ourselves the idealist, we need to remind said idealist to be the light that is needed right here and now, and not to wait until standing on the global stage to begin shining, that is, to begin proclaiming the saving grace and mercy of God. If we find in ourselves that jaded pragmatist, we need to encourage the negative one to see what is possible, and to recognize that the grand dream can and should also include that which is small and local. Jesus calls us to be salt for the earth and light to the world. The first step to giving flavor to the whole world, and dispelling all darkness wherever it may be, is to light the lamp and let the light that God has given to each of us shine, now, today, right where we are. We will be amazed at how much that light transforms, how much that small amount of salt gives new taste, and how much God can multiply our small offerings for His glory.