Packers or Steelers? Oops. I mean, “Who is someone you know whose goodness has made a difference in your life?”
- Five years ago, the Super Bowl was played in Detroit, Michigan. If you know who won that game, raise your hand. (Pittsburgh/Seattle).
- Three years ago, the Super Bowl was played in Glendale, Arizona. Raise your hand if you know who won the Super Bowl three years ago (New York Giants/Patriots).
- At the beginning of Mass I asked, “Who is someone you know whose goodness has made a difference in your life?” How many people had an answer for that?
- Follow up question to that last one. If you were lonely, grieving, or in a hospital dying, who would you rather have with you? The MVP of today’s game, or the person whose goodness changed you?
Interesting, isn’t it. Companies will pay millions of dollars for commercial spots at today’s game – this year the cost for a Superbowl commercial is $100,000 a SECOND – but none of them will make nearly as lasting impression as those people who are salt and light for us. That is what we are called to be – salt and light.
And if you think about Jesus’ invitation in the Sermon on the Mount as a kind of ‘ad campaign’, they were very effective symbols. Salt was crucial in Jesus’ day. Wars were fought over salt and the right to mine it in salt rich territories. As a preservative in the days before refrigeration, salt enabled food, particularly meat, to be edible for months. We know what it does to the flavor of food, but in the time of Jesus, its most important role was to keep things from rotting.
You are the salt of the earth. Your lives are meant to have a preserving, sustaining quality about them that keeps this world from becoming a rotting mess. We are to take up the hard work of bringing peace where there is war, and comfort where there is sorrow. We’ll hear more about the practical implications of being salt as we continue reading from the Sermon on the Mount in the weeks to come.
You are the light of the world. That places us as LEADERS among the human family. In our families, our parishes, our communities and nation – we are to be that city on a mountain – bringing light and love to all. And how are we to do that? Jesus is even more explicit – it is by our example, the HOW in which we live, that we will change hearts and lives. This is not necessarily a call to go rushing into the public arena waving the Catholic flag and calling people to get their act together. But it is an invitation to be people whose lives have been changed because we have met Jesus in a way that transforms us.
All in all, it is a tall order – to be people of salt and light. I like to think that I have the salt function down – I do pretty well at preserving and sustaining things that are here at St. Ann’s. Where I have struggled the most as pastor is in the light/leadership category. That part doesn’t come easy for me. So I have been praying this week about that call to be light/leader. There have been three dreams working their way forward in my heart and prayer this past year – three ways that I think God might be calling us as a parish to move forward. Let me put them out there and see if they find any resonance in you, and indication that perhaps God is inviting you to help make those a reality here at St. Ann.
First, I want to bring a retreat program to this parish – called the Acts Retreat – as an ongoing part of our mission. There is a woman’s retreat and a men’s retreat. And then those who participate become the ones who put it on for the next group. Secondly, I’m forming a team to look at how we might be better stewards, not so much of the gifts of treasure – you have been very supportive of this parish and our school – but of the gifts of time and talent. How do we give people the opportunities to put their faith into practice in concrete ways. The third is in the realms of the social gospel of the church. I dream of this parish being a place where the demands of social justice become a driving force in our neighborhood and in our lives.
It is a tall order, to be people of salt and light. And we don’t have a budget of $100,000/second to put that into place. But we do know people who have been salt and light for us, and the difference they have made in our lives and world. Now, it is our turn to do that for others…