Please press here to listen to the homily or download
Fifth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Isa 58:7-10; 1 Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16.
1/ Reading I: RSV Isaiah 58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, “Here I am.” If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Corinthians 2:1 When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
I. THEME: Let us become useful instruments for God to use.
God has power to do all things; He could make all people to become His holy children without people’s co-operation, but He doesn’t do so. Instead of that, He invites people to participate in His plan of salvation by becoming His instruments to lead people to God; and He regards what people do for others as for Himself.
People need to realize an important matter: They have no power to lead people to God, they are only instruments for God to use; the power which helps people to God is completely by God because He works with people from inside. Therefore, no one can claim that he or she led a person to become a God’s child or a sinner to come back to God; they are only instruments for God to use. We can recognize this truth through John Baptist’s confession, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, `Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Jn 1:23).
Today readings want to highlight this idea. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah, after criticized the hypocritical fasting, helped people to understand the real meaning of fasting which is to help others having an opportunity to live. Through this help, people might recognize the faith of the faithful and believe in God. In the second reading, St. Paul explained the process of a person’s faith in Christ: He is only God’s instrument to proclaim what He wants to say; the Gospel belongs to Christ and is revealed for him and the real power which helps a person to understand the truth and to believe in Christ is the Holy Spirit’s power. In the Gospel, St. Matthew used two images, the salt and the light, to describe that God uses them as instruments in the faithful to help others recognizing the good in the faithful and to give praise to God.
1/ Reading I: The fast which God favors is “to share your bread with the hungry.”
1.1/ To practice charity in words and deeds: The prophet Isaiah severely denounced the hypocritical and displayed fasting. He helped people to recognize the core of fasting is for others to have an opportunity to live as dignified persons. He said, the fasting which God likes: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
These are three of the seven corporal works of mercy which the Church also teaches all the faithful to do. Besides these, the Church also teaches the seven spiritual works of mercy; they are: “To instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to admonish sinners; to bear wrongs patiently; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive offences willingly; to comfort the afflicted and to pray for the living and the dead.” In today passage, Isaiah described briefly about the spiritual works of mercy as followed, “If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness.”
1.2/ God shall hear prayers of those who helped others: All graces, talents and material things which one uses them to help others belong to God; but God regards one’s help as for Himself. God shall continually bestow more graces, talents and material things for those who constantly help others so that they can give out more; and if they commit sins He shall forgive them. Isaiah described the results of these people as following, “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, “Here I am.””
2/ Reading II: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
2.1/ St. Paul didn’t preach the gospel with in lofty words or wisdom: St. Paul’s opponents slandered him with the Corinthian faithful that he didn’t possess Hellenistic philosophy and eloquent speaking like them. He wasn’t sad with their slanderous statements but also used them to clarify the Catholic doctrines with the faithful.
First of all, Paul wants to say a preacher like him doesn’t preach his own or any other’s doctrine, except the doctrine which Christ revealed for him. The center of the gospel is the Crucified Christ, as Paul said, “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:23-25).
Paul, as also any preacher, must be anxious, fear and tremble when he explains Christ’s doctrine. The reason for this is he must explain it as truthful as Christ wants, not to cause any confusion and misunderstanding for the audience. When a preacher falsifies the truth of the gospel, he shall certainly receive his punishment from God.
2.2/ The faith which the faithful possess is mainly by God’s power: Paul clearly recognized that a preacher is only the mouthpiece God uses to proclaim what He wants to say; the doctrine is revealed by Christ; the Holy Spirit is the one who helps the audience to understand the truth and to believe in Christ. Paul confirmed he isn’t the cause of the audience’s faith, “My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
3/ Gospel: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Religion isn’t confined only in knowing God and ceremonies celebrating in the church, but must be permeated in all aspects of the faithful’s life by applying what God has taught us. Jesus gave his disciples two images which are very familiar and necessary for human life, and invited us to reflect.
3.1/ The function of salt: There is nothing which is basic and cheap as salt, but it has many useful applications for human beings.
From the ancient time until now, salt is the thing which can’t be lacked in the human life. Salt is very valuable for the ancient people; there was time that one kilogram of salt is equivalent with one kilogram of gold. Workers’ salaries were paid with salt (sal-ary). Sal is the Latin word for salt. Taxes could be paid by salt (Cf. 1 Mac 10:29, 11:35).
(1) Salt represents for what is clean, unchanged, indestructible and pure, because it is formed by the sunlight and the sea water. Since Christians are are purified by Christ’s blood and sanctified by the Holy Spirit’s grace; they must be pure and holy as salt before they can benefit others. It represents for things which are and pure. The law commands to put salt in the cereal offering; this represents for the covenant between God and men (x/c Num 18:19). God’s covenant is called the salt covenant (2 Chr 13:5). In liturgy, when the priest blesses the water, he also adds a little salt in it. It also represents for the truth (Col 4:6) and love and peace (Mk 9:50).
(2) Salt prevents food from spoiling: Because of its quality, salt is used to preserve food: Meat and fish need salt to stay longer; vegetables also need salt to last longer; even fruits also need salt to keep its favor. The Vietnamese adage used the image of fish needing salt to teach children the need to obey their parent, “Fish without salt shall be spoiled; children who disobey their parent surely shall be spoiled.” If this is true in educating children, obedience to Christ’s teaching is more important for the Christians. If the faithful have no virtues, how can they preserve themselves and others? Jesus reminded his disciples a reality, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
(3) Salt increases taste for food: Salt can’t be lacked in cooking; no matter how good and fresh is the food, it shall be tasteless without salt; fish sauce is also made with salt. The Christians are equipped to become the salt of the earth. One thing we need to pay attention in this sentence is that our Lord used the verb “to be” at the present time. This means that the Christians always have this character. They, by nature, have good characters to help the world to be better.
3.2/ The function of light: This image is more familiar to human beings than salt. Light has many functions:
(1) Light is used to shine: When the sun sets, people need light to avoid falling and to find things. The Christians have the truth as the light to avoid falsehood.
(2) Light is used to warm up: When the weather becomes cold, people need heat from the sun or fire or heaters to keep themselves warm. The Christians have the Holy Spirit to warm them up from loneliness. They use their love to warm up others’ unhappiness and sorrow.
(3) Light is used to protect people from dangers: Sins or crimes used to happen in dark places. Sinners and criminals hate the light because it displays their wicked deeds.
(4) Light gives life: All living things need the sunlight; without it, there is no life (Science calls this “photo-synthesis”). Jesus calls himself “the light that gives life.” He is both “light” and “life.” Without him, people have no light and life (Jn 1:4).
Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” The purpose for our shinning is for people to see God’s glory and to praise Him. It isn’t for our glory; if we do good works for our own glory, we already receive the reward which is people’s praise and God doesn’t have to compensate us.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE
– Remember we are only God’s instruments; we should never steal God’s work or recount our good works with others.
– When God uses us, let us try to be His good instruments. Do not be like salt without saltiness and a lamp without oil.
– God’s word has potential to develop and to change people; we don’t need to present it flowery or eloquently, but truthfully, clearly and simply.