Tuesday, June 13, 2017
1) Opening prayer
God of wisdom and love,
source of all good,
send your Spirit to teach us your truth
and guide our actions
in your way of peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 5,13-16
Jesus said to his disciples: 'You are salt for the earth. But if salt loses its taste, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled under people's feet.
'You are light for the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in people's sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.
• Yesterday, in meditating on the Beatitudes, we passed through the door of entry of the Sermon on the Mountain (Mt 5, 1-12). Today in the Gospel we receive an important instruction on the mission of the Community. It should be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt 5, 13-16). Salt does not exist for itself, but to give flavour to the food. Light does not exist for itself, but for the service of people. At the time when Matthew wrote his Gospel, this mission was very difficult for the communities of the converted Jews. In spite that they were living in faithful observance of the Law of Moses, they were expelled from the Synagogues, cut away from their Jewish past. Regarding this, among the converted pagans, some said: “After the coming of Jesus, the Law of Moses has become obsolete”. All this caused tension and uncertainty. The openness of some seemed to be criticism of the observance of others, and vice versa. This conflict brought about a crisis which led many to close up in their own position. Some wanted to advance, to go ahead, others wanted to place the light under the table. Many asked themselves: “In last instance, which is our mission?” Recalling and updating the words of Jesus, Matthew tries to help them.
• Matthew 5, 13-16: Salt of the earth. By using images of daily life, with simple and direct words, Jesus makes known which is the mission and the reason for being a Christian community: to be salt. At that time when it was very hot, people and animals needed to consume much salt. The salt, which was delivered by merchants in great blocks in the public square, was consumed by the people. What remained fell to the ground and lost its savour. “It no longer serves for anything, but it is thrown out and trampled under people’s feet”. Jesus recalls this use in order to clarify for the disciples the mission which they have to carry out.
• Matthew 5, 14-16: Light of the world. The comparison is obvious. Nobody lights a candle and places it under the tub. A city built on the hill top, cannot be hidden. The community should be light, it should enlighten. It should not be afraid to show the good that it does. It does not do it to make itself seen, but what it does can be seen. The salt does not exist for itself. The light does not exist for itself! This is how the community should be. It cannot remain enclosed in itself. “Your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in Heaven.”
• Matthew 5, 17-19: Not one dot, not one little stroke will disappear from the Law. Among the converted Jews there were two tendencies. Some thought that it was not necessary to observe the laws of the Old Testament because we are saved by the faith in Jesus and not by the observance of the Law (Rm 3, 21-26). Others thought that they should continue to observe the laws of the Old Testament (Ac 15, 1-2). In each one of the two tendencies there were some more radical groups. Before this conflict, Matthew tries to find a balance, the equilibrium, over and beyond the two extremes. The community should be the space, where this equilibrium can be attained and lived. The response given by Jesus continued to be very actual: “I have not come to abolish the law, but to complete it!” The communities cannot be against the Law, nor can they close themselves up in the observance of the law. Like Jesus did, they must advance forward, and show in a practical way that the objective which the law wants to attain in life is the perfect practice of love.
•The different tendencies in the first Christian communities. The plan of salvation has three stages united among themselves from the earth to life: a) the Old Testament: the path of the Hebrew People, orientated, guided by the Law of God. b) The life of Jesus of Nazareth: it renews the Law of Moses starting from his experience of God, Father and Mother. c) The life of the communities: through the spirit of Jesus, they tried to live as Jesus lived it. The union of these three stages generates the certainty of faith that God is in our midst. The intention to break or weaken the unity of this plan of salvation gave rise to various groups and tendencies in the communities:
i) The Pharisees did not recognize Jesus as Messiah and accepted only the Old Testament. In the communities there were some people who sympathized with the thought of the Pharisees (Ac 15, 5).
ii) Some converted Jews accepted Jesus as Messiah, but they did not accept the liberty of spirit with which the communities lived the presence of the Risen Jesus. (Ac 15,1).
iii) Others, both converted Jews and pagans, thought that with Jesus had come the end of the Old Testament. From now on, Jesus alone and the life in the Spirit.
iv) There were also Christians who lived so fully the life in the liberty of the Spirit, that they no longer looked at the life of Jesus of Nazareth, nor the Old Testament (1Co 12,3).
v) Now the great concern of the Gospel of Matthew is that of showing that the Old Testament, Jesus of Nazareth and the life in the Spirit cannot be separated. The three form part of the same and only project of God and give us the central certainty of faith: The God of Abraham and of Sarah is present in the midst of the communities by the faith in Jesus of Nazareth.
4) Personal questions
• For you, in your life experience, for what does salt serve? Is your community salt? For you, what does light signify in your life? How is your community light?
• How do the people of the neighbourhood see your community? Does your community have some attraction for others? Is it a sign? Of what? For whom?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh judiciously guides the humble,
instructing the poor in his way.
Kindness unfailing and constancy mark all his paths,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. (Ps 25,9-10)