Being salt and light!

The Sunday liturgy invites us to be salt and light. It might seem like a strange thing. However looking at the readings, we are even given concrete ways in how we can be salt and light to the world. Does this not seem a contradiction? Is it not considered ‘pride’ to shout to the world about the ‘good deeds’ that we do? I have to say that this has been on my mind over the past few days.Let me explain why!

Recently there has been a social phenomenon sweeping the Internet, in particular on Facebook. It is an online drinking game called Neknomination and involves drinking alcohol  and engaging in dangerous activities either during or immediately after consuming the drink. The participants video the challenge, upload it and nominate other people to do the same within 24 hours. It is getting out of hand and as of today, four young men have died by participating in this game, two in Ireland and two in Britain. Even tonight on the news here in Ottawa, Canada, they were highlighting the risks of this game as it begins to grip the youth of North America. To counteract this game, another social phenomena was devised. It is called RAKnomination and works on the same element of 'going viral' but people carry out random acts of kindness and also nominate people to do the same. The random acts have often focused on the homeless, the hungry, the lonely, the isolated and people whom our society often rejects. There is a quote from Shaun Hick which reminds us: “It's sad that in a world of billions, people can still feel isolated and alone. Sometimes all it takes to brighten up someone's day is a smile or kind word, or the generous actions of a complete stranger. Small things, the tiny details, these are the things that matter in life — the little glint in the eye, curve of a lip, nod of a head, wave of a hand — such minuscule movements have huge ripple effects.” The ripple effect can produce a tidal wave of kindness if we let it. Instead of people trying to get their five minutes of Facebook fame by doing extreme NEKnomination challenges, we can do something for others and change the world, one little deed at a time.

It is as if the First Reading gives ideas for RAKnomination: “Thus says the LORD: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them,and do not turn your back on your own. If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”

We shouldn’t need such phenomena to remind us that we are called to do good. It is part of our Christian DNA. However, sometimes we need a nudge in the right direction. The Lord can use even the Internet and viral videos to spread his message and for Christians to shine their light. Jesus says to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Yes, the Internet is a very public forum and yet it is the agora in which we must be present and shine some light. Every time you do a good deed you shine the light a little farther into the dark. And the thing is, when you're gone that light is going to keep shining on, pushing the shadows back. I am reminded of the Shakespeare quote from the Merchant of Venice: "How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
Even among ourselves, we may have to shine some light upon the path of each other and help each other along the way when the road seems obscure and bumpy. Or else helping someone out when they are stuck in a rut and need a hand out and an invitation to look upwards towards a new perspective. I often joke and call it ‘throwing sunshine in someone’s face’! But going back to the salt, Mark speaks of ‘having salt in yourselves and being at peace with one another’ (Mark 9:50). The salt in this verse refers to the goodwill that "seasons" positive relationships between people. This is also a play on the covenant of salt, indicating friendship and compassion. Salt makes food taste good. Like salt, friendship enhances what nourishes our hearts. Of course, sharing laughter and good times with friends is enjoyable, but friends make the hard times more bearable, too. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to spend time with ‘salt of the earth people’, as we celebrated the gift of life and celebrated the Lord’s Day! Indeed, we can flavour each other’s lives, we can brighten each other’s lives….it takes effort but it is worth it! We become true pilgrims along the way.