“…he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.” In our First Reading today, Barnabas had a front-row seat to the marvelous effects of loving Jesus to the degree that those in Antioch had achieved. It must have been quite a beautiful sight! You see, this is what happiness is when those who are searching for happiness in this world find it in Jesus. Great things always happen! “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; break into song; sing praise.” The Gospel then concludes our Scriptural gifts today by instructing and inspiring just how to go forward in in faith.
“You are the salt of the earth!” Now that is certainly something you don’t hear every day, at least in polite company. If you and I are going to fully understand what Jesus is communicating with us, we are in need of a little research. In New Testament times, salt referred to the leveling agent for paddies made from animal manure, the fuel for outdoor ovens used in the time of Jesus. Young family members would form paddies with animal dung, mix in salt from a salt block into the paddies, and let the paddies dry in the sun. When the fuel paddies were lit in an oven, the mixed-in salt would help the paddies burn longer, with a more even heat. When the family spent the salt block, they would throw it out onto the road to harden a muddy surface. Jesus saw his followers as leveling agents in an impure world. Their example would keep the fire of faith alive even under stress. Their example would spread faith to those stuck in the cultural “dung.” But if their example rang empty, they were worthless; they would be dug into the mud under the heels of critics.
“You are the light of the world.” Jesus also saw his followers as the light of a fire to the world. Placing a lit fire under a basket would put the fire out. No, like a city high on a hill, the fire should be placed for all to see. One cannot hide faith by inaction. One must show faith in action for all to see, so those seeing the witness can be brought to faith and praise God.
In essence, Jesus told his followers they cannot have it both ways. One cannot believe as a Christian, yet act as if faith did not matter. Faith leads to action and the action points to the Kingdom. According to some dictionaries, “salty” as a slang term, can be used to describe a person who is angry, agitated or upset. It can also paint a picture of someone who is mean, annoying and repulsive. Our original question, then becomes more valid and meaningful by the minute. Are we salt or salty? Are we light or darkness? Are we alive or lifeless? Are we who we say we are? Let’s see how the day progresses…
God our Father, You filled Saint Barnabas with faith and the Holy Spirit and sent him to convert the nations. Help us to proclaim the gospel by word and deed. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.