Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Saint John Baptist de la Salle
Isaiah 58:7-10; 1Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16
February 5, 2023
Some years ago, there was a show on television called "Kids Say the Darndest Things." They presented children, mostly in a school setting, giving answers or asking questions, that most everyone thought was funny and the world laughed at. However, you never know what kids know, do you? Just a few weeks ago, a little girl, about five years old, was giving her parents a difficult time while they were at Mass. First the father and then the mother took the child out of the Church for a few minutes, and then, each time they brought her back, the same thing would be repeated. At the end of Mass, as they were leaving, the little girl was still crying, but she let me pick her up and I showed her the tassels on my stole. I walked around in front of the Church and showed her where our roses grew, trying to explain how beautiful our Church was and what a nice place it was to be. As we walked by the rose bushes, she said, "Your roses are dead." She may have already learned the art of small talk, that's just it. When does a child learn this? She was having a "talk with Father," and it reminded me of my mother saying to the small child I once was, "Wait till your father gets home." That was a talk that I did not look forward to. "No, they are not dead," I said. "it's January, and they are dormant, just resting, waiting until spring comes, and then they will come back to life." In any event, if her purpose was to change the topic, it worked, and to be honest, I was happy to be onto a new subject as she was. Here is the Gospel question. Remember that Jesus himself reminded us that we are the branches, and he is the vine. Therefore, if others look at you, could they tell whether you are alive, dormant, or dead? That saying is a variant of an age-old question: "If Christianity were a crime around here, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" What the Gospel, with its talk of salt and light, is making clear is that being a Christian is much more than just having a positive opinion of Jesus. Jesus calls us to discipleship, to be his Father's mercy poured out upon the world.
If you are not Baptized, not yet a part of the Body of Christ, which is the Church, you can have whatever opinions you like about Jesus, and no one has a right to expect more than that. But once the water washes over you, the rest of us have the right to encounter another Christ, a shining light, salting what has gone stale. Of course, you can deny your Baptism, especially if you were baptized as an infant. And there is a certain integrity in someone who says, however wrongly, or perhaps because the Church has failed that person, "Now that I am an adult, I want nothing to do
with Jesus and his Church." There is no integrity, only excuses, in those who separate the two, Jesus and the Church. However much she gets it wrong, that is the mission Jesus gave to the Church: to be the Christ, still alive, pouring out the Father's mercy on the world. If you have problems with the Church, do not part company with it, for you are still called to be another Christ, perhaps pouring out the Father's mercy upon the Church as well. However, correct our insights, however noble our intentions might be, and whoever we are, we should always act with an awareness that we might be wrong, in part or parcel. Even the great Saint Paul did as much: "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 may not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God." But, back to the Gospel question: "Are you alive, dormant, or dead?" Here's a list of people wondering about that: the poor, the sick, the homebound and those in nursing homes, the elderly, and children in need of example and encouragement. If you do not know them, something has gone wrong with your discipleship, and you can add your pastor to the list. Granted, being Christ for others does not begin or end at the doors of our parish, but Christ calls us into a community. With the Holy Spirit, spring is always coming, and she needs your help in the fields. Unless a family is literally fanatical about their faith, to the point that their children flee the first chance they get, children who see their parents practice the faith grow up to do the same. But is that not a basic law of nature? Life comes from life, and at a certain point, dormancy means death. Why even a child knows that.