Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

Jesus today tells us, “You are salt, you are light, and you are a city set on a mountain.”  You are salt, you are light, and you are a city on a hill. All three of these things exist for something else.  Salt seasons and preserves, it makes food taste good and it also keeps food from rotting.  This is very important when there are no refrigerators.  But salt can also make the earth barren.  An army would sometimes spread salt into the fields around a city they had just conquered.  Salting the earth so that nothing would grow, so that their enemy would starve.

Light illuminates and pushes back the darkness.  Before electricity darkness was a much more dramatic reality than it is today.  The ancients understood how helpless they were without a lamp.  And finally a city on a mountain, a city on a mountain is visible to everyone and was used as a guide and point of navigation.  Without MapQuest or gps a city on a hill was a point of reference in finding your way.  Someone giving directions might say, “Keep the city on the hill to your right and you’ll find your way.”

Now many times we are told by our culture that religion is something to be kept private.  Keep it to yourselves, keep it in your homes and churches, but don’t bring your religion in to the public square.  Jesus never says this; the Bible says something else entirely.  Religion is not meant for oneself alone, it is meant for the other.  We are not to rest in our own holiness: we salt, we enlighten, and we are a city on a hill.  We are all of these, for those around us.

As disciples of Jesus we salt; preserving and enhancing what is best of our culture, but at the same time we salt and destroy what is dysfunctional and sinful.  Light:  by the light of our lives we reveal what is good and beautiful, but by our light we also expose what is ugly and sinful in our culture.  We highlight what is dysfunctional.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Germany on February 4th in 1906.  He was a vocal opponent of the Nazi party.  He was salt, he was light, and he was a city on a hill.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer began a promising career as a theologian and Lutheran pastor at the University of Berlin in 1931.  The political events occurring in Germany in the early 1930s, however, soon brought about many profound changes in his life.  Bonhoeffer’s opposition to the Nazi party led to his decision to abandon his academic career when Hitler came to power in 1933.  Hitler’s subsequent policies led to divisions in the German Lutheran Church, and Bonhoeffer became an active member of the Confessing Church that was formed in opposition to Hitler’s totalitarian government.  This Church commissioned Bonhoeffer to direct one of the underground seminaries that were established for the training of young pastors.  The seminary was eventually closed by the Nazis in 1937.

The late 1930s brought further changes for Bonhoeffer.  As the German war operation expanded, he was drawn more and more into active opposition against Hitler’s government.  Convinced of the righteousness of the course, he eventually became involved in a conspiracy to overthrow Hitler.  He was arrested by the Gestapo on April 5, 1943, and spent the next two years in prison.  Another attempt to overthrow Hitler in 1945 led to the execution of a number of political prisoners only weeks before the end of the war.  Bonhoeffer, only thirty-nine years old at the time, was among them.  He was executed by hanging just twenty three days before the Nazi surrender.

A camp doctor who witnessed the execution wrote:  “I saw pastor Bonhoeffer…kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God.  I was most deeply moved by the way this man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer.  At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed.   Now one of the last things that Bonhoeffer was heard to have said was, “This is the end…for me the beginning of life.”  “This is the end…for me the beginning of life.” 

Our Lord is calling us to be vibrant Christians.  Without vibrant Christians the world is in a worse place.  We don’t see what is good, and the ugly and sinful are not exposed and destroyed.  What would have happened to World War II if more Christians spoke out like Dietrich Bonhoeffer or like Pope Pius XII, St. Edith Stein, or St. Maximillian Kolbe?  When Christians are not salt and light people lose their way.  What happens to our culture if we are the salt and light we are meant to be.  This is not the time be a lukewarm Christian.

“In Sinu Jesu” is a journal written by an anonymous Benedictine priest and he’s been receiving private revelations from our Lord.  One thing our Lord reminded him of was his immense love for each of us.   Jesus says to each one of us, My heart has a particular love for you, a love that My Father destined for you alone and for no other from all eternity.  How it grieves My heart when the unique love I offer a soul is spurned, ignored, or regarded with indifference.

Homework for this week is to meditate on these words.  My prayer for us this week is that with this realization of our Lord’s infinite love for each one of us, it may make us desire to be more salty and more filled with light

Let us be great Saints,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley