Last week, as I listened to a eulogist pay tribute to a longtime religious woman during a Memorial Mass, I was moved to explore my own value and effectiveness as a Christian.
Arleen Kisiel, O.P. (a Dominican Sister of Peace), described the late Sr. Rosemarie Robinson as “the salt of the earth” — what a legacy!
Salt of the earth is something that we, as Christians, aspire to be (based on the phrase derived from the Bible, where Jesus tells his followers, during The Sermon on the Mount, that “Ye are the salt of the earth”).
In ancient times, salt was not only used as a seasoning for food, but as a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a commodity for exchange (or payment). Salt was valuable (and still is today).
While salt can have negative connotations, salt of the earth is coined in reference to the value of salt. Valued workers are said to be “worth their salt” and the word salary has the root sal, or salt.
To be salt of the earth is to be of high value and importance. As salt of the earth, we are called (or challenged, if you prefer) to be a positive, purifying influence in the world. That begs us to ask ourselves: Are we influencing the world or is the world influencing us?
Then, there is the question that follows the declaration that “Ye are the salt of the earth” in the biblical scripture: “but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot…”.
Salt can become tasteless when contaminated by other minerals. As salt, our challenge is to not become contaminated – to not allow our basic, fundamental goodness to be corrupted; to not sit in silence when we should be speaking out; to not idly stand by when we should be taking action or advocating; to not be disqualified from service because we have lost our zest.
If we lose our saltiness, we lose our value and usefulness. We lose our effectiveness as a positive influence in the world.
Salt is a necessity of life and I think most of us would agree that food tastes better with a little salt. It doesn’t take much. In fact, recipes often call for a pinch of salt.
A pinch of salt can make a big difference in taste, just like a pinch of our salt can do much to reduce bitterness, chaos, and darkness and bring peace to the world.
The way we live, the things we say, the attitudes we entertain, the lifestyle we adopt produce positive or negative results. Our goal is to be a positive influence – valuable salt – in our own little corner of the world.
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:13, The Message)