February 9, 2020, Fifth Sunday of the Epiphany. A reflection about Matthew 5:13-20.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (v13)
“For centuries since the advent of Jesus, salt that had been cleansed and sanctified by special exorcisms and prayers was given to catechumens before entering the church for baptism. According to the fifth canon of the Third Council of Carthage in the third century, salt was administered to the catechumens several times a year, a process attested by Augustine of Hippo (Confessions I.11). Two specific rites, namely a cross traced on the forehead and a taste of blessed salt, not only marked the entrance into the catechumenate but were repeated regularly. By his own account, Augustine was “blessed regularly with the Sign of the Cross and was seasoned with God’s salt.” (1)
“Early in the sixth century, John the Deacon also explained the use of blessed salt, “so the mind which is drenched and weakened by the waves of this world is held steady”. Salt continued to be customarily used during the scrutinies of catechumens or the baptism of infants.” (2)
“In recent times, the use of blessed salt is found within the Anglican liturgy of Holy Baptism. In the section on Occasional Offices of the Book of Common Prayer, the following prayer, given under the rite for Blessing of Holy Water is said before the holy water is blessed and “salt is put into the water in the form of a cross.” (3)
Almighty and everlasting God, you have created salt for the use of man, we ask you to bless this salt and grant that wherever it is sprinkled and whatever is touched by it may be set free from all impurity and the attacks of Satan; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (4)
Following this statement of Jesus, “you are the salt”, the Church in the old and until now has been using and incorporating the salt in its rituals and ceremonies most especially in the sacrament of baptism which is the initiation or entrance to the church – the body of Christ. Every baptized therefore has been seasoned by salt and is to provide saltiness to the society.
We are seasoned by the teachings of Jesus which are lived-out and modeled by him. We ought also to be seasoned by living-out the faith that we have been taught also. It is not when we just come and attend the church service, become satisfied and do nothing but go home and wait for the next Sunday to attend again the mass. It is when we go out of the mass listening to what the priest says, “Let us go now to love and serve the Lord” to the communities of people and be among them in whatever their situation is.
According to Prophet Isaiah to become a seasoning is to share our bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into our house; when we see the naked, we cover them, and not to hide from your own kin (58:7). It is when we make ourselves available for others and make them feel that they can find a friend and can lean on us.
To become the preservative, prophet Isaiah again has charged us with the following. “Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.” It is to loosen the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke (cf.58:6) It is to offer our food to the hungry and to satisfy the needs of the afflicted so that our light shall rise in the darkness and make our day from gloomy to noonday.
Therefore, we should challenge the salt in us and strive to become the seasoned Christians, the seasoning and the preservative to the society.
My reading includes:
- William Harmless, 1995 Augustine and the Catechumenate ISBN 0-8146-6132-7 page 80, through WIKIPEDIA;
- Aidan Kavanagh, 1991 The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation ISBN page 59, through WIKIPEDIA;
- The Anglican Service Book. Good Shepherd Press. 1991. p. 231. ISBN 9780962995507, “Occasional Offices”, through WIKIPEDIA;
- Book of Common Prayer. Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea. 2014, through WIKIPEDIA;