By Robert Moynihan

Jesus spoke of his followers as “the salt of the earth.” Salt preserves food, so the “salt of the earth” helps to preserve… the earth — the whole world. But this occurs only if the “salt”… retains its “saltiness”… its holiness

“You are the salt of the earth!” —Jesus, speaking to his disciples, in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5:13

“Salt preserves. Thus we are called to preserve this Faith, just as the salt in Magdala preserved the fish caught by James and John, Peter and Andrew, so long ago. To be the ‘salt of the earth’ means to pass on the apostolic faith, unaltered, pure of decay or corruption, until the end of time.” —Daniel Mattson, Catholic Answers, “What it means to be ‘salt of the earth’”

“The Church fulfills her calling as ‘the salt of the earth’ in serving as the taste of the kingdom of heaven… in doing so, the body of Christ invites the world to the feast of life in the kingdom. Put differently, ‘you are the salt of the earth’ is not referring to the flavor and seasoning believers bring to human life and society. It is rather to be taken as signifying the beginnings of the heavenly banquet…” —Protestant theologian Ken Montgomery, in “‘You are the Salt of the Earth’ (Matthew 5:13): Influence or Invitation?”

“The essence of the Christian faith is intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends.” —Benedict XVI, foreword to his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, September 30, 2006

“For even within the same faith, each man’s way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ’s word: ‘I am the way.’ In that respect, there is ultimately one way, and everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of consciousness and will, but, on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man.” — Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in Peter Seewald’s 1997 book-length interview him entitled Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium, p. 32

“You are ‘the salt of the earth.’ It is not for your own sake, he says, but for the world’s sake that the Word is entrusted to you. I am not sending you only into two cities only, or 10 to 20, nor to a single nation, as I sent the prophets of old, but across land and sea, to the whole world. And that world is in a miserable state. For when he says: ‘You are the salt of the earth,’ he is indicating that all mankind had lost its savor and had been corrupted by sin. Therefore, he requires of these men those virtues which are especially useful and even necessary if they are to bear the burdens of many.” —St. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Gospel of St. Matthew (Homily 15, 6-7: PG 57, 231-232). Born in 347 A.D., St. John became a monk and was ordained a priest to serve the Church in Antioch. His eloquent preaching earned him the title of “Chrysostom,” meaning “golden-mouthed.” In 398 A.D., he was named Patriarch Archbishop of Constantinople, much to his chagrin. This reluctant patriarch fulfilled his duty with energy and courage. But his call to repentance and moral reform won him the enmity of the nominally Christian Empress, who had him deposed and exiled. To this day, the principal “Byzantine” liturgy celebrated by most Slavic, Greek, and middle-eastern Christians is known as the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. He died under the harsh conditions of his exile in 407 A.D., but he will always be remembered as one of the greatest of the Early Church Fathers. St. John Chrysostom is regarded as a “Doctor of the Church” by Catholics, and as one of the three Holy Hierarchs and Ecumenical teachers by Eastern Orthodox Christians. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2023, ROME—In Rome this morning, under a deep blue sky, Pope Francis, at his Wednesday General Audience, reflected on the Gospel passage where Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.”

As Christmas is now approaching, the words “you are the salt of the earth’ take on immediate importance, for, by the coming onto the world of Jesus Christ, by His birth at Christmas, we experienced the “holy exchange”: Christ exchanged His divinity for our humanity, and we exchnaged our humanity for His divinity. We exchanged our “saltlessness” for the “saltiness” of Christ, His holiness, His being. Thus, Christmas has an “ontological” dimension.

Ontologically, the eternal “being” of Christ, son of the Eternal Father (“Before Abraham was, I am”), entered into time with a holiness and power capable of drawing the world of sin and frustration “upward” toward that “great banquest feast” where all wounds are healed, and all tears wiped away.

The profound advances of modern science and technology, have led us to the peculiar obsession of our present time: seeking eternal life through technology rather than through union with the eternal, holy God, that is, by becoming filled with grace, that is, by becoming holy.

We seem to believe we will obtain our “salvation’ (our “saltiness’’) through technology, not through… sanctity… through “AI” (Artificial Intelligence) and not through “SI” (Spiritual Intelligence): incorporation into the holiness of the risen Jesus Christ, by means of the mysteries of Christian life, also known as the “sacraments,” all seven of which are intended to incorporate finite, sinful human beings into the infinite, holy being of the Risen Lord Himself. This is “Spiritual Intelligence” (SI).

We have a calling, a vocation, each one of us. We are called to undertake a pilgrimage in this life, to set our sights on our true destiny, our true home, and journey toward that destiny, that home, in the face of every temptation, every proposed alternative destiny, focusing on that final goal alone. The goal is to encounter the Logos, Christ Himself… “Man bears within him a thirst for the infinite, a longing for eternity, a quest for beauty, a desire for love… man bears within him the desire for God,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his General Audience of May 11, 2011. This is the message of Christianity, and it is the message that is behind all of the Church’s elaborate structures, teachings, doctrines, commandments, counsels, laws, sacraments, rituals and charitable initiatives. Merry Christmas to all!

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