Lectio Divina: Matthew 5:13-16
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 the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. 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 lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."
• 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 flavor 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 converted Jews. Although 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 become adamant in their own position. Some wanted to advance, to go ahead, while others wanted to place the light under the table. Many asked themselves, “In the final analysis, what 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 what the mission is 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 savor. “It no longer serves for anything, but it is thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Jesus recalls this practice 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). There are Christian groups today that believe only this as well. Others thought that they should continue to observe the laws of the Old Testament (Acts 15:1-2). In each of the two tendencies there were even more radical groups. Before this conflict, Matthew tries to find a balance, the equilibrium, over and above 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 timely: “I have not come to abolish the law, but to complete it!” The communities cannot be against the Law, nor can they close themselves off in the observance of the law. Like Jesus, they must move forward and show in a practical way that the objective which the law wants to attain in life is the perfect practice of love.
Jesus completes the law by His summation: to love one another. He sums it up by example, as well as His instruction (Mk 12:31-33). To believe in Jesus is not just believing some history, it is also believing who Jesus is, and therefore, the importance of following His instruction. To love, and to work in imitation of Jesus in love, demands outward action and a sincere concern and care for every brother and sister in the world, all of God’s children, starting with our community.
•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 (Acts 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. (Acts 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 (1Cor 12:3).
v) Now the great concern of the Gospel of Matthew is to show 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 plan 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 faith in Jesus of Nazareth.
4) Personal questions
• Salt and light are taken for granted today. We have salt in all of our food and electric lights at any time. What would you choose to use instead of salt and light for examples today, and why?
• Through modern travel and technology, our community can be seen (observed) by those next door or by other people or communities across the globe. Is our community a “city on a hill” for the worldwide community? How can we be salt and light for someone nearby as well as in another country?
• Those Jesus sent on the mission went out and did not sit at home or in an office waiting to be visited. How do we “go out” to meet others and other communities near and far on our mission, as individuals, as an individual local community, or as a larger community?
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)