Today’s Gospel is the famous passage from the Sermon on the Mount that tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
“But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything…”
Every time that this passage comes up at Mass, I am reminded of the insight of Trappist Father Simeon Leiva in his great commentary on Matthew. He points out that the Greek word for “loses its taste” has a literal meaning of “to become foolish.” Whenever I see an alternate translation (or especially a more literal different translation) for a word or phrase in the original text, I ask how the passage might be understood if that alternate translation were used. Sometimes, the other meaning of the word or phrase can bring additional depth to an understanding of the passage.
So, I ask how could salt become foolish? How could we as salt become foolish? And good for nothing, or at least not able to do what we were meant to do? It seems that the answer is when we lose our identity. If we forget who we are, we become foolish.
Who are we? We are, first and foremost, children of God. We are God’s beloved. We are followers of Christ on a journey that leads to eternal life. That is who we are. If we lose sight of that, we become no longer good for what we are meant to do. We are no longer capable of sharing the Gospel message with others. We no longer live the life that we are meant to live.
Holding on to this core identity is so important.
As we go through this graduation season, our hearts go out to those graduating without the normal celebrations of graduation that the rest of us experienced. No senior prom. Graduations are either virtual or socially distanced on the football field with limited guests.
Despite those disappointments, these graduates have a great opportunity to set a course for their future that is consistent with this core identity. Many of us who are older have needed a conversion that returns us to a life consistent with that identity. But the opportunity to live that identity from the outset of one’s adult life is priceless. I pray that they take advantage of it.