Father Valan Arockiaswamy

Father Valan

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Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Feb 5, 2023 Views 417 Listen 2 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of Prophet Isaiah (58:7-10)

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. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and He will say: Here I am! 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.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (112:4-9)

(R) The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.

Light shines through the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and merciful and just. Well for the man who is gracious and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice. (R)

He shall never be moved; the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance. An evil report he shall not fear; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. (R)

His heart steadfast; he shall not fear. Lavishly he gives to the poor; his justice shall endure forever; his horn shall be exalted in glory. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (2:1-5)

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified: I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom, but on the power of God.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.


A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (5:13-16)

Jesus said to his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 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."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


Last week we started to read the Sermon on the Mount from the gospel of Matthew. It is the sermon that Jesus preached from a mountain near the Sea of Galilee and, it begins with the eight declarations of blessedness or the Beatitudes, as they are commonly known. In the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches us that when we humble ourselves before God, when we mourn not just for our own afflictions but also for others' pain and suffering, when we are gentle and merciful to others, when we hunger and thirst for the right relationship with God and others, when we seek and work for peace, when we suffer grief and are persecuted for the sake of the gospel, we will receive comfort, satisfaction, mercy, security, peace and be able to see God and live forever in His Kingdom.

Continuing the Sermon in today's gospel, Jesus used two simple metaphors to outline the role of His disciples in the world. A metaphor is simply a figure of speech used to make a comparison. Sometimes Jesus used metaphors to illustrate spiritual matters.

In the first metaphor, Jesus compares His disciples with "salt". He said, "You are the salt of the earth."

Salt is a substance that is very familiar to us. However, to fully uncover the meaning of salt in the metaphor, we need to go back to the time of Jesus. Because when Jesus spoke about salt in his sermon, he was not referring to the modern refined table salt - sodium chloride - in our kitchens. In ancient Palestine, the main source of salt was in the area of the Dead Sea. Salt had so many uses that it was highly valued. First and foremost, it was widely and variably used as a symbol and sacred sign. For instance, Jews offered salt when they made temple offerings and sacrifices, Ezekiel (43:24), Exodus (30:35) and Ezra (6:9).

They also had a custom of sealing a covenant or a bond of friendship by ingesting and exchanging salt, Numbers (18:19) and 2 Chronicles (13:5). Thus, salt was used to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value and purification. Besides, salt was also used as money, as currency, as protection, as disinfectant, as toothpaste, as antiseptic, as weed killer, as fertilizer, as preservative, as medicine, as seasoning agent and so on. Here, salt in the metaphor carries a general idea of value. So Jesus used salt metaphorically to instruct his disciples that they are as valuable, precious and important as salt to the world.

However, in the context of Jesus' preaching, salt is used as a seasoning to enhance the taste of food for He did go on to say, "But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?" That's to say, if salt loses its saltiness, how can it restore its taste again? Strictly speaking, salt cannot lose its saltiness because sodium chloride is a stable compound. But the salt in Jesus' day was not the highly refined salt that we use today. Scholars say that the "salt" particularly collected around the Dead Sea contains a mixture of other minerals. So it was possible for salt to lose its taste. Likewise, it was possible for Jesus' followers to lose their saltiness if they become complacent and allow other ideas and ideologies contrary to the Truth of the gospel to rule their life. What Jesus is really saying here is His followers should not lose their ability to preserve and flavor the earth for Him. It is important for them to retain the flavor and preserve the earth. They need to flavor the lives of others and become a preserving agent in people's lives.

Finally, Jesus stated that tasteless salt "is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." In Jesus' time, when salt did not fulfill its purpose, that is, add depth to and expand the flavor of food and preserve food or became tasteless, then it was just thrown out into the street where people would walk on it. It was rejected and thrown out because it had no value whatsoever. So Jesus was implying that His disciples had a particular function to perform - the ability to transform the world through His gospel. But if they lose the salt-like flavor, then they would render themselves tasteless and useless and so to be thrown on the road and walked on. They would be worthless, not being able to exert any kind of influence in the world. They are so much like the world. They are like tasteless salt.

In the second metaphor, Jesus likens His disciples to "light". He said to them, "You are the light of the world". Light is a significant metaphor in the Bible and the word "light" occurs more than 250 times in the Bible. The importance of the sun and "light" in human life is revealed in God's creation of light on the very first day of the creation of the universe when God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. God saw that the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness", Genesis (1:3-4). Life as we know would not be possible without the heat and light of the sun. The Bible also states that God is light, Psalm (104:2), 1 John (1:5) and God's Word is light, Psalm (119:105). So, when Jesus used the word light as a metaphor to denote His disciples, He wanted them to know that they are as valuable and precious as light to the world.

In the context of his preaching, Jesus was talking about the light that dispels darkness for he used two figures of speech to illustrate this light. In the first one, He said, "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." At the time of Jesus, most Judean houses were built on the top or sides of mountains, and travelers could see them from afar. Moreover, they were construction of marble and white limestone to reflect the bright sun rays in the daytime and moonlight and burning lights at night acting as a beacon light for travelers from miles away. Perhaps Jesus pointed to such a city, to tell his disciples that they were like it. They were a city set on a hill that is elevated and easily seen.

In the second figure of speech, He said, "Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." In Jesus' day, homes were lit by small clay lamps and were put on a lampstand to provide light to all the people in the house. Jesus contrasted placing a lamp on a lampstand to covering a lamp with a basket. He said that people would not light a lamp to hide its light but they would rather keep it on a lampstand in order to shed light to everyone in the house. So too, in this dark world, He called on His disciples to hold the light high so everyone can see it. He wanted them to be the light to make it easier for people to find their way to God. He wanted them to expose the light within them. It means, it is not enough for the disciples to believe in Jesus, they must also publicly proclaim it to the world.

Jesus ended his preaching on light with a powerful statement: "Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." It was not a suggestion but a command from Jesus. Yes. Jesus commanded his disciples to let their light shine before others. And they must live a righteous, holy, humble, pure and selfless life so as to draw attention to God the Father and never to themselves.

What does this all mean for us?

Israel was chosen by God to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world". They were not chosen for their own sake. They were chosen to enhance or influence the life of others and to serve as light to all people so that by hearing the message of salvation and by seeing their good works, the whole world may come to know and believe in Jesus Christ and, through Him, bring glory to God. But Israel rejected God's call. Today, God has entrusted this unique mission to us, Christians. You and I have not been called just to be saved but also to function as "salt of the earth" and "light of the world".

We are already salt of the earth by our baptism. Now it is up to us not to lose it saltiness or taste but to stay valuable and useful to the world - healing wounds of divisions and hatred in society, preserving life and good things in this creation, protecting people from all harm and evil, and most of all adding flavor to the lives of others, giving meaning where there is no meaning and giving hope where there is no hope.

We are already the light of the world by our baptism. Now it is up to us to stand on top of the hill and shine forth for God. Instead of keeping our faith as a private matter or to ourselves, we must share the gift of faith with others particularly with our children and family members. We must also keep the faith burning brightly in our lives and share our faith with others to bring them out of the darkness of ignorance and sin. Let us hold our shield of faith high and exhibit the light in our good works so that many more people may come to believe in Jesus Christ and glorify God.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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