2 Corinthians 1:18-22
"You are the salt of the earth."
"You are the light of the world."
These are both very familiar statements of Jesus, known even to those who are beyond the Christian community. While it is good to be familiar with stories, phrases and lines of scripture, there can be a disadvantage in that what is well known can become too familiar to the point of becoming commonplace. We can even have a tendency to "tune out" what we think we know and have heard time and time again. Even the words of Jesus can thereby lose the ability to surprise and challenge us. But Jesus, by speaking in metaphors, opened his meaning to unlimited, living meanings for people of all ages.
"You are the salt of the earth." Salt is a seasoning that needs to go into something else and come in contact with food that is bland and flavorless in order to fulfill its purpose as salt. And in this contact the salt not only enhances the taste of what it touches but the salt itself is changed and becomes part of what it flavors. Salt and food blend together in a way that makes them a part of the other and together they are more than what they were singly. The flavor has always been locked in the food but by contact with salt it is freed to express the taste that it really is. Both salt and food come to some kind of completeness and thereby fulfill the purpose of the other. The metaphor is limitless. And Jesus said that WE are the salt of the earth. Interpretations and our imaginations can burst forth with freedom.
"You are the light of the world." Light must go into darkness to have the effect of illumination for a room or the world. A lamp lit in the noon day sun has no purpose and in fact is a waste of fuel. It is not needed. But in the midnight darkness and gloom the light penetrates and transforms what is obscured to illumine what is there but unseen. Light does not actually bring anything new but makes visible and apparent what has been present. Again, the metaphor is exceedingly rich.
The salt and light that Jesus says is within us, indeed actually IS us, cannot stay safely as our own possession. They must be used as intended so that we may become what we are intended to become. Jesus challenges us to go to those whose lives are bland and locked inside themselves or to those who are living in fear of an inner darkness of hopelessness. Otherwise we will be putting our light under a basket and our salt will stay in the shaker.
Cathy Anthony ([email protected]) is on the staff of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.