St Ignatius of Loyola tells us that if we want to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, then we have to be clear of the goal and purpose of our life. And with such clarity, we will then be able to direct our lives towards achieving the goal. We all know that the goal of our lives is to live the Good News of Christ and gain the eternal life that God is offering us.
More specifically, St Ignatius tells us that the ultimate purpose of life is to praise, reverence and serve God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus preaches that we need to be the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” In doing so, Jesus is proclaiming how we are each called to live our life to the full.
As we are called to praise and reverence God, in our daily living, it might be good to ask ourselves, “How many of us here come to Mass every Sunday reluctantly, grudgingly and merely to fulfil our Catholic obligation?” If by “obligation” we feel that it is a Church’s law that is imposed on us that we have to fulfil every Sunday or else I have committed a sin and have to go to Confessions for it, then we have missed the point of what the Mass is about.
However, if we feel the “obligation” to come to Mass on Sunday is because we feel that we ought to rightly and thus, “obliged” to thank God for the abundant blessings that we constantly receive from Him in our lives and during the week, then coming to Sunday Masses are clearly expressions of our gratitude to God as a community, and that is good.
We all know that “salt” has clear purposes for its existence. Jesus says, that if “salt becomes tasteless . . . it is good for nothing and can only be thrown away to be trampled underfoot by men.” Likewise, if we lose our sense of praising, reverencing and serving God, then we would have lost the purpose of our lives, and our existence and life on earth would be useless.
In the ancient world, salt is the most common preservative of food. Salt keep food fresh and prevents is from going bad. Thus, when Jesus expects His believers to be the “salt of the earth,” He is obviously expecting us to help keep the Good News of salvation “fresh” in the minds and hearts of people in the secular world who are so caught up by its materialism and secularism, and have lost the sense of the true meaning in life.
Very recently, the parents of one of our parishioner came up to me to ask me whether his four children could take a photo with me; all of them are altar servers. Each of the boys have decided to ask their parents, family, relatives and friends to give them cash instead of Christmas presents, so that they could donate it to a charity of their choice. They four boys collected almost $3,000 and donated it to the Bhutanese refugees children in Nepal. I congratulated the parents for bringing up such wonderful children. And when I joked, that perhaps all of the four boys could become Jesuits one day, the mother immediately replied, “Father, you can have all of them!”
I was very touched and edified by the Christ-centred love of the parents of these boys. While they love their children very dearly, God’s Will in their lives is more important. If we pride ourselves in being good practicing Catholics, but are not yet willing to let go of our children, and different attachments in our lives, then God is not yet the centre and the deepest love of our lives; we are not yet the true “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” that God wants us to be, regardless of who we are. This is because if God is everything to us, then we are called to give Him the very best of everything that we have including our children.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we know that “salt” draws out the natural flavour instead of adding taste to the food. Good cooks know how to add just the right amount to the food as too much salt will destroy the natural flavour of the food. The parents of these four boys are truly the salt to their four children. In bringing them up, they knew how to draw out the goodness and love that God has planted in their hearts, so much so that the boys have voluntarily chosen to come up with the creative idea of sharing their Christmas blessings with refugee children who are in need, instead of buying more ipads and iphones of the latest models and branded goods that are not really needed.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, I have no doubts that many of you here are bringing up very good children and are giving them the best education and the best of many things that they need in life. However, Jesus in today’s Gospel is reminding us not to be carried away by the good things in life and forget the very essence and ultimate meaning of what life is about.
In living the Gospel values of Christ, you are living your married vocation as parents and nurturing and drawing out the very best in your children. Their future happiness and fulfilment in life is guaranteed if they experience God’s love in the home and learn how to love God in the family and also have compassion for the poor and needy of the world. If our children grow up without much care and concern for the needs of others, and the millions of suffering people in the world, then they can very easily be absorbed by the secular values of the world of materialism, secularism and consumerism which are essentially promoting self-glorification and self-gratification.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is also calling us not only to be the “salt of the earth,” but also to be the “light in our world of darkness.” We know very well from life experiences, that the external glitters, glamour and the glory that the secular world offers is in reality a “darkness” that undermines the purpose of our life on earth, which is to praise, reverence and serve God.
As I conclude, let us remind ourselves that we all need to make a difference in this world and to people’s lives; ultimately we must live a Christ-centred life daily. This poem captures very well how our reflection at the end of each day could be:
Is anybody happier because you passed his way?
The day is almost over and its toiling time is through;
Is there anyone to utter now, a kindly word to you?
Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?
Can you say tonight, in parting with the day that’s slipping fast,
That you helped a single brother of the many that you passed?
Did you waste the day or lose it?
Was it well or sorely spent?
Is a simple heart rejoicing over what you did or said?
Does a man who’s hopes were fading now with courage look ahead?
Did you leave a trail of kindness; or a scar of discontent?
As you close your eyes in slumber, do you think that God will say,
You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today?
Our parishioner parents and their four boys are very good examples of how we can be the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” If they can share God’s blessings with refugee children generously, and live a Christ-centred life beautifully, so can you and I. It is the same Holy Spirit that will also guide us to live the Christ-centred life; but the choice is ours.
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
visitors since 12 February 2014