Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) was a Roman historian and scientist whose book, Natural History, contains natural and scientific knowledge. In his work, he said, “Nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine.” The Gospel today also uses the metaphors of salt and light to emphasize our Christian vocation to the world.
Scientifically speaking, salt cannot lose its flavor. If it does, salt ceases to be salt. However, for the Jews, salt can be unclean especially if it had been in contact with those forbidden in Leviticus 11. From ancient times to this day, salt is used as a spice (to enhance the food’s flavor) and as a preservative (to keep food from decaying).
The pace of the world today has become faster and faster as new technology makes life efficient. Despite the claims that life has become simple with gadgets, the demands of productivity have caused a lot of people to be stressed and depressed. Many people find their life meaningless and empty. Many are already disappointed about themselves, or discouraged about the possibility to fulfill their dreams.
The main source of energy in Christians is found in one’s faith: hope is never crushed — sometimes diminished but never defeated. Because of this hope, Christians should be able to rise from their pitfalls. Our words should encourage those who are depressed. Our company should build people, not destroy them. Our teaching should draw out the best in another. Our talents should help other people develop and enrich their own. By doing so, we become life-givers.
Light has always been used to apply to the Divine. By extension, we too are called to be as light. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (5, 4-5) says, “All of you are children of light and of the day. We belong neither to darkness nor to night.”
Likewise, Christians are not meant to be hidden. We are meant to be witnesses of Christ; therefore, as examples who are seen by many. We are public figures like Hippo in Galilee or Jerusalem: as “a city set on a mountain” (v. 14 and Isaiah 2, 2-5). These cities are seen even by a traveler at a distance.
Thus, our God-given gifts are meant to be at the service of the people. They are meant to be shared. They are to be used to spice up and preserve people’s lives. If we are funny, then our jokes contribute to the well-being of another. If you can sing well, go and let people hear your song.
On the other hand, there are pitfalls. Verse 15 reminds us not to be arrogant: to forget that the gifts we have, though we have to use them for others, come from God and not from ourselves. Humility is not about keeping our talents hidden: it is about making good use of them because they are precisely given; they are not ours.
In addition, having been given the vocation to be light, have we considered being witnesses not just among our small groups and organizations, but among the larger university or global family? How many ‘small organizations’ in the University of the Philippines have a tribal mentality? Their plans are only for themselves to enjoy. They cannot think bigger than their parochial lives. They are small in number, because people don’t know them. They live in their own mouse-holes. We often forget we are meant to be seen.