FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Prayer – Fasting – Social Justice
First Reading ( Is 58:6-10 ) : What God desires is for us to loose the bonds of injustice.
Second Reading (1Cor 2:1-5) : Do not rely on lofty words to preach the Word of God
Gospel (Mt 5:13-16 ) : Teaching on the Mount : Salt of the earth, Light of the world
“Committing the big unrighteous act – attacking another country is not considered wrong. On the contrary, it is commended and considered righteous.” (1)
‘You are the salt of the earth ,the light of the world’ ( Mt 5:13-16)
We are very familiar with this Gospel passage but how do we interpret it and become salt and light? Perhaps this Sunday's first reading from the fifty-eighth chapter of the prophet Isaiah can help us have a broader idea of how we can be salt and light.
The Lord said, ‘The fast that I choose is to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke’
That is fasting. The meaning is not only to eat less food but to loosen the bonds of injustice and perform deeds of righteousness and charity.
Isaiah continues:- ‘Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin. This is your fast. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.’ ( Is 58:6-10)
Therefore fasting does not mean only to eat less so that one feels hungry ; nor does prayer mean only to pray to God and establish a relationship with God. Scripture demands of us that along with a relationship with God we must promote good relations with other people and through relationship with other persons find union with God. Only that can be called the spirit of the Gospel.
Therefore, ‘loosing the bonds of injustice, sharing one's bread with the hungry, not hiding oneself from one's own kin,’ and all these kinds of just and merciful deeds, are raised to the level of worship of God, and only then does Scripture consider it true worship. Only if the faithful can do this, can their light rise in the darkness, only then will their prayer be efficacious, only then will God say to us ”I am here with you.”
Isaiah continues: ‘If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil. If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.’
The Bible really is an organic, complete unit. To understand the New Testament, one must look into the background of the Old Testament; to understand the Old Testament one must observe how it is illumined by the New Testament.
Looking at it in this way, we can better understand the meaning of ‘salt’ and ‘light’ as used in the New Testament. That is to say, if we wish to be light, we not only need to understand the doctrine of life and become perfect in our own lives, or only understand how to pray and receive the Sacraments. Besides this from Christ himself we must learn how to live, how to treat others, and we must build up a new world of peace and justice, shed light on the world and lead people to see clearly what truth and life really are.
At times truth is not easily discerned. Mo Zi, in Anti-war, conveyed a confrontational message: When a man kills another man, he commits an unrighteous act and deserves the death sentence. Calculated in this way, if a person kills ten men, he commits ten unrighteous acts and deserves ten death sentences. If he kills a hundred men, he commits a hundred unrighteous acts and deserves a hundred death sentences. Everyone understands this kind of reasoning. Therefore, we condemn those who kill, be it one, ten or a hundred men. However, if you could kill a country and the countless lives there, and knew how to attack a city or a country, everyone would commend you.
Mo Zi's ‘ lament was: to kill one man was considered unrighteous but to kill a country would be praised. When judging right and wrong, if a person sees a little bit of black then he says it is black; and when he sees more black, he says it is white. Then we can say that this kind of person cannot tell the difference between black and white, or right and wrong. We are in such a situation at present. We condemn those who have committed small acts of wrong-doing but we praise those who commit great evil acts such as wiping out a whole city. To quote Mo Zi: “Today people are like this. When they see a little black they say it is black. When they see more black they say it is white.. We consider these people not being able to tell the difference between black and white. Today, for small wrong-doings, people know it is wrong. But committing the big unrighteous act – attacking another country- is not considered wrong. On the contrary, it is commended and considered righteous. We say they cannot tell the difference between righteousness and unrighteousness.” Confronted with a world which does not distinguish between right and wrong, does this not mean that we, who are “the light”, have an even greater mission?
Mo Zi's observation saddens us but it also serves as a warning. We can judge small wrongful acts but in face of great injustice, we do not know what to do. That is our world.
When we see a petty thief stealing small amounts of money, we are apt to judge this as wrongdoing; but when we see a dishonest merchant taking advantage of a nation's corrupt political system to exploit others and deprive them of millions of dollars we praise them for having a good ‘business head.’ Some people rob a bank and are imprisoned. But there are others who manipulate the banking system, appropriate great wealth, speculate on the money market or stock market, lead a nation or even several nations to the brink of bankruptcy, and we say these are financial geniuses! If we see a professional prostitute we may say she has no shame, but if we go somewhere and see an open ‘red light district’ with legalized prostitution, we might say this is responding to a social need or to the need of humanity!
‘You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.’ Christians should raise up Gospel values and ideals to brighten the world. They must take up the burden of trying to improve public morality and not only care for one's own individual salvation.
O Lord Jesus Christ, help us to become salt of the earth and light to the world. Help us to see the road we ourselves should take and to see also the road the world and humanity should walk. You are the Savior of each one of us and the Savior of all humankind; you are able to sanctify each of us and to sanctify all of humankind. Help us to cooperate with you in sanctifying ourselves and sanctifying others. Help us to sanctify each individual, and to sanctify all the elements of our society structure that influence the quality of our lives.