Salted with Fire
"For everyone will be salted with fire" (Mk 9:50) Today’s readings are difficult to understand until we remember the practices of ancient Jewish sacrifices. The offerings had to be salted to express symbolically their soundness, sweetness, wholesomeness, and acceptability. Before the days of refrigeration, salt was used as an important means of preserving food. Nothing rotten was to be given to the Lord. Since the offerings were to God "they became a thing most holy made by fire" Lev 2:3 Besides being a preservative, salt made things taste good. "Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt?" (Job 6:6)
To be an acceptable sacrifice we must be salted with fire. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God." (Rom 12:1) The pain and sorrows we experience in following Christ are the salt and fire by which we are given to God, sharing in Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20)
Reflecting on the words of Christ gives us hope in the darkness of our pain. We are being given the privilege of participating in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The pain and suffering of our lives is not in vain. The ups and downs of our lives are a sacrifice to God in Christ. The Scriptures with many words and hundreds of times tell us to hope in God.
Charles Peguy in his beautiful poem on hope said:
I am, says God, the Master of the Three Virtues
Faith is a church, a cathedral rooted in the soil of France
Charity is a hospital which gathers up all the miseries of the world
But if it weren’t for hope, all that would be nothing but a cemetery.
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.