5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Salt and Saltiness
(Adults, you could begin by lighting a candle and reading the Word of God to your child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection, then proclaim the Word, then return to the reflection.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus sits on the mountain with his many disciples gathered around him, listening. He has told them how to be people of the Kingdom of God. He has shown them what pleases God. Then he looks right at each of them and says,
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
We wonder what the disciples think of this. We are...salt? Salt?
We listen to Jesus' words, too, and we know he speaks them to us, as well. So, what do we think of this? Jesus calls us salt of the earth?! Seriously?
Why does he say this? Who does he think we are?
Who are we?
We are people who know and love Jesus.
We know he is the Good Shepherd, and we love how he calls his sheep by name.
We know he is the True Vine and we are the branches that make up that vine.
When he says,
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you (John 15:9),
our hearts rejoice because we love him, too, and we want to remain in his love.
We know him and we love him.
Now, why does he call us—we who know him and love him—salt?
What do we know about salt?
Most of us like salt in our food. We like salty potato chips and salty French fries. Salt makes the food taste better. Not just better—salt actually gives food taste. If we have ever tried eating a potato without salt, we know. Yick. Borrrrrring.
So, salt is flavour. We are the flavour of the earth. What does that mean?
Flavour makes food interesting. Somehow our knowing and loving Jesus—our wanting to remain in him—makes the world interesting. Just as people add more salt to their food to make it better, so, too, people want more of us. They want to be with us—because there is something about us, about our lives, that just makes life on earth better.
People also use salt to preserve food. This means they add salt to food so that the food does not go rotten. In Jesus' time, when there are no freezers or refrigerators, fishermen put their fish into barrels of salt so that the fish do not spoil before they are sold. Even today, salt is added to foods to slow the growth of mould and bacteria that causes food to go bad.
So, when Jesus says we are the salt of the earth, could he mean that we preserve the earth from going bad? Do we—by knowing Jesus and loving him—prevent the world from becoming a rotten place?
Because we love him and want to remain in his love, we make certain choices. We choose to live in a certain way. We can say that our choices help to spread his light; our choices help to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. This certainly preserves the world from becoming rotten, does it not?
but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?
Sometimes we make poor choices. We all do. Sometimes our actions break down the Kingdom instead of building it up. Our saltiness drains away and we become like the rest of the bland earth.
The answer to Jesus' question—how can saltiness be restored?—-is, "It cannot." Salt cannot restore its own saltiness. We cannot restore our saltiness. We cannot become the attractive flavour of the world again.
But who can restore it?
Who can restore us to the people we are meant to be?
Who can remove the blockages of sin so that the Holy Spirit flows within us freely?
When we have made wrong choices, we hear God calling us back. We answer. We go to the sacrament of Reconciliation and our saltiness is restored.