A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 11)

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – February 6, 2005

 

“Salt of the Earth … Light of the World”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 58:7-10 // I Cor 2:1-5 // Mt 5:13-16

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

Stephen Mills, who directs the Sierra Club’s international programs, makes an important observation: “Migration happens when freedom, disaster, economic opportunity, environmental degradation, and desperation are distributed so unevenly across the globe that people are forced to make difficult choices: stay and barely survive, or move and possibly thrive.” The issue on population and immigration and their environmental impact rages. Marilyn Berlin Snell, in her article “A Tale of Two Immigrants” (cf. SIERRA, November-December 2004, p. 36-44) presents the opposing stance of two first-generation immigrants: one wants to build walls, the other endeavors to build bridges. Yeh Ling-ling believes that immigration-driven population growth is harming America’s environment, workers, infrastructure, and social coherence. In the battle to protect America’s natural bounty, she advocates increased militarization of the U.S. border. Yeh Ling-ling argues: “We must assure that illegals can’t work in the United States, that their children can’t go to school.” Harvard graduate Hugo Morales, who spent his childhood picking fruit on a farm, is impatient with what he considers “the current green-washed, anti-brown argument that immigration-fueled population growth is one of the greatest threats to America’s environment”. Morales remarks: “It’s not that people want to leave their homelands. Why risk your life? They don’t do it because they like blue jeans, but because they need jobs. They’d rather stay, but globalization dynamics make border crossing inevitable; it’s a phenomenon around the world.” He responded compassionately to the problem by founding a noncommercial radio station that is meant to be a forum of ideas among immigrants so they can improve their lives. Morales also works to keep pesticides from poisoning laborers, regardless of their nationality.

 

Against this backdrop, I find the article of Robert Rodriguez on the De Alba Family, our co-parishioners, very interesting (cf. The Fresno Bee, Dec. 25, 2004, p. A11). Remembering its roots in the fields, the family has fed farm workers in the central San Joaquin Valley for 11 years. It is their way of thanking them for their hard work in harvesting the region’s fruits and vegetables. It is also a reminder of how far this family of twelve has come from their own days of picking cherries, tomatoes and grapes in Valley fields and orchards. The De Alba Family also has held very successful canned food drives for the poor and strongly supports St. Mary Queen of Apostles Church, to which they belong. Rev. Pat McCormick, a former parish priest, testifies: “They have really been a unifying factor for the church. They are a great family.” Indeed, this wonderful De Alba family of Fresno is an inspiring example of what it means to be “the salt of the earth … the light of the world”. They also exemplify the zealous response to the prophetic challenge: “Share your bread with the hungry … Do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (Is 58:7-8).

 

Today’s Gospel reading (Mt 5:13-16) presents the role of the disciples of Jesus using the images of salt and light. The biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington gives a concise, but insightful explanation: “In Jesus’ time, salt was used not only to improve the taste of food but also to preserve meat and fish. When Jesus compares his followers to salt (v. 13), he says that they improve the quality of human existence and preserve it from destruction. In Jesus’ time, the only lamps available were small dish-like devices in which oil was burned. By our standards these lamps did not give off much light, but in the time before electricity their light must have seemed very bright. When Jesus calls his disciples the light of the world (vv. 14-15), he says that their actions serve as a beacon of light in a dark world. The disciples are challenged to let their light shine (v. 16) as a witness to their fidelity to Jesus and his heavenly Father.

 

The French writer, Jean Mouroux reflects more deeply on the Gospel passage: “Being a Christian means serving as Christ served, and with Christ. Christ’s essential service is the bringing of truth, salvation, and joy. Christians must take part in this service, and this they do by bearing witness. There are two images that express one aspect of this Christian function. First, You are the salt of the earth. Like salt, Christians act by contact. The power of purity and faithfulness and charity …  gives a spiritual savor to all their actions and makes them an agent of purification and preservation. Then, You are the light of the world. Like light, Christians act by presence. The light of faith, which produces every kind of good work, dissipates prejudices, lightens the way, leads to God … Light does not try to be seen: it only has to exist, and then it is bound to shine. The more purely it is itself, the more brilliantly it shines. So for Christian people: the more they forget themselves for God, the more they become transparent to the divine light, the more they are bound to spread God around them. Purity of intention and candle power are one and the same thing: it is love for the Father that attracts others to the Father and gives glory to God.”

 

Aelred Rosser situates this Sunday’s Gospel reading and the Christian challenge to be the “light of the world” in the context of the liturgical seasons. He explains: “We are still not far from Christmas and Epiphany, when we celebrated the coming of the light of the world, which shattered the darkness of sin and death. And yet we are on the threshold of Lent. Ash Wednesday is three days away. This reading looks both forward and backward: forward to the good works of a penitential season, backward to the glory that motivates our joyful penance.”

 

Finally, the liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent delineates the Christian imperative to be the “light of the world” in terms of our commitment to Christ’s Paschal Mystery and our openness to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. He affirms: “We are meant to be the light of the world. We will in fact be a light to others only if we are inspired by charity and do the concrete works of charity. In addition, however, the light we are to bring is light concerning the central object of our faith, namely, Christ crucified. It is for this that the Spirit fills us with his power. To bring light to others, then, means to enable them to meet Christ, the crucified Messiah who is now the risen Lord of glory … For a man to receive the gift of faith, the light, is for him to encounter the mystery of Christ or Christ himself in his paschal mystery. The true Catholic preacher – and this applies to every Catholic – is the one who enables others to encounter the Light, the Word-made-flesh who was crucified and then rose from the dead. It is the Spirit who really makes the mystery known to men and gives them the strength to embrace it.”

 

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART

 

A.     Are we “the salt of the earth … the light of the world”? In what way?

 

B.     Is the heavenly Father being glorified by our daily acts of Christian witnessing? Do we have purity of intention and an immense “candle power” as we carry out our works as Christian disciples?

 

C.     What happens if our vocation-mission to be “the salt of the earth … the light of the world” seems to wane? What do we do personally to revive this vital Christian vocation-mission?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD

 

Leader: Lord Jesus,

you called us to become “the salt of the earth … the light of the world”.

Help us to treasure the nobility and dignity

of this wonderful vocation.

As “the salt of the earth” and by our zestful Christian witnessing,

help us to improve the quality of human existence

and enable our brothers and sisters to relish the joy of salvation.

Let the light of your grace guide us.

Help us to share our bread with the hungry,

to shelter the oppressed and the homeless,

to provide for the needs of the poor,

to defend the marginalized,

and to aid refugees and migrants from their homeland,

seeking means of survival in a foreign and, at times, hostile land.

Moved by the Holy Spirit

to participate more fully in the paschal mystery of your saving love,

may we be truly “the light of the world” - “the city on the mountaintop”.

In sharing the heart-warming radiance of your compassion

through our charitable works and service of healing,

may God the Father be glorified now and forever.

 

Assembly: Amen.

 

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD

 

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

 

“You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world … Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”  (Mt 5:13a, 14a, 16)

 

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION

 

A. ACTION PLAN: Prepare your Lenten Program 2005 in view of aiding the poor, the marginalized and the suffering members of the local and world community.

 

 

B. ACTION PLAN: That we may truly be “the salt of the earth … the light of the world” and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 11): a weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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