Discipleship ( part 2) Retreat to SVD seminarians, Pune
So then what does the portrait of a disciple look like? Jesus has described it clearly when he says it is COSTLY, it entails SUFFERING and is calls for COMMITMENT. It is not a matter of faith in Jesus but faith with Jesus. If you can’t count the cost it is better that you not journey down this road for this road is a hard one. It is a road that the devil will strew with power, money and lust making our journey as seminarians and priests a very hard one.
So the question I raised earlier, I ask again. Are we fans, followers or disciples? In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus says you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world. What makes us distinctively Christian? What makes us distinctively disciples? The question that Jesus poses to us is this, if we lose our Christian distinctiveness, if we lose our discipleship, how can we be made Christian disciples again?
The text is taken from the Sermon on the Mount and clearly in 5:1, the opening verse we are told that Jesus is talking to His disciples. At the end of the sermon He will address all but the Sermon on the Mount is specifically for His disciples and for us. He will also in this text make a distinction between the world and the disciple. He is not saying that one is better than the other but rather that one is different from the other.
Jesus begins with two statements of fact. He does not say you should be the salt of the world or the light of the world he said YOU ARE. So he gives us identity before behaviour. We know who we are therefore we know what we should do. Being salt and light is identity; it is what is true of a disciple. So Jesus is saying the world is not the salt or the light but the disciple is.
Perhaps Jesus is also saying that the disciple then, as a consequence, salts the world. The world is decaying and is being corrupted and salt which was used as a preservative to stop things from decaying is now used of the disciple; he/she is to be the agent that stops corruption and decay in the world. Also Jesus says, “you are the light of the world”, so He is also imputing that the world is dark and by implication the disciple is the light that pervades the darkness.
Let us make two common sense observations. Salt and light are useless if salt is not salty and light is hidden. Therefore Jesus is making a point. The Church exists for the world, the disciple exists for the world, the priesthood exists for the world and yet we are locked up inside our sanctuary, sacristy and compounds.
The purpose of salt is to add flavour. The purpose of light is to expel darkness and that should be our role in the world. As disciples we are called to add flavour and dispel darkness. Now notice, no one says the salt in the chicken curry is tasty, they simply say the chicken curry is excellent. Yet as disciples we want the glory, we want our achievements to be praised. Often and oddly enough we don’t even want the glory to be given to the Church but rather to us, the ministers of the Church. So who is shining? You or Christ within you?
Salt has and had many uses at the time of Jesus. It was used for seasoning, preserving and as a mode of financial transaction. Salt was an expensive commodity in the Roman world. The word salary comes from the word salt. Roman soldiers were paid their salary in salt and that’s why we have the English saying “you are not worth your salt”. That begs the question, are we worth our salt? Are we preserving life and do we as disciples season the Church or are we bitter herbs that people are forced to swallow?
I often ask myself how Jesus would taste because we refer to the Lord as ‘sweet Jesus’ when in reality he is SALTY JESUS. To call him salty would mean that as disciples we will have to change our appetites and pallets from all things sweet, which has become a matter of our choice, to all things salty, for that is the way Jesus willed it to be. The message of Christ was never sugar coated; it is we who have sugar coated it for our comfort, lifestyle and behaviour.
Looking at this text in its context: what makes us salty is the living out of the beatitudes that we read in Matthew 5:3-12
Fr Warner D’Souza
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