A World of Salt
The most amazing place I ever said Mass was nearly a kilometer underground in a salt mine just outside of Krackow. It was not long over a year ago when a group, mostly from Our Lady’s Island’ visited Poland. We gathered in a very modern chapel, just close to a full size bacilica, that would hold this church at least five times over and what was truly incredible was that in it everything was carved from salt. From the ceiling to the floor, the altar and the lectern, even the chandeliers were carved from salt. This mine ran for hundreds of miles and supplied salt to most of Europe for centuries. Until then I had taken that humble substance very much for granted, or if you pardon the pun, with a grain of salt, but I came away with a real sense of appreciation for all the incredible hard work that goes into making this substance that is so necessary for life available to us.
When we say to someone that he or she is the salt of the earth its one of the finest compliments we can pay. It usually means that they are honest and upright, as good as their word, hardworking, reliable and trustworthy. In ancient times salt was a very valuable commodity and was used as a form of currency. It is from this practice that we get the word salary. Seen that way someone worth their salt was a good worker and worth their salary.
One useful way we can understand the nature of sin from the Scriptures is where it comes across as lack of self-belief and denying our God given greatness. Do we really believe that our little lives can make a difference and leave indelible footprints on the world? Do we know that we are capable of sending out ripples that will stretch into eternity? For some reason we are better at belittling ourselves that giving ourselves credit. We focus on our mistakes more than our successes and we recognize our faults and failing long before we see our gifts and talents. The game of playing small and deeming ourselves never to be good enough is one we are very adept at. Yet it must be remembered that our playing small will not serve the world whereas only those who embrace their greatness can truly make a difference. Hiding behind a cloak of inferiority or unworthiness is something that needs to be named for what it is. Many think that by doing so they are practicing some form of humility where they go through life metaphorically beating their breast and saying look at me a poor miserable wretch.
Sorry to have to say this but such self-effacing is not humility, its actually pride we are talking about because all self-negation or self rejection keeps us wrapped up in ourselves. This what makes it so sinful and it blocks our ability to exercise all those qualities that are inherent in salt. These are many and varied: It adds flavor and richness to life. How tasteless food would be without salt. People who exude joy and hope are such a gift while as the bible says a depressed spirit who can bear? It preserves what is good. Moral corruption becomes rampant where salt is lacking in individuals who lack the courage to stand up for what is right. Salt is a healing agent and to be a healer is the call of every Christian. Salt also absorbs negative energies and so blessed salt had been used for millennia in the blessing and psychic cleansing of places. If we truly believe ourselves to be what Jesus says we are, our lives can be a blessing wherever we are.
Then we move from salt to light. After the darkness of winter its lovely to see the light coming towards us. It’s easy and safe to talk about Jesus being the light of the world whereas the real challenge is to hear him say ‘You are the light of the world,’ That means I am called to be be a light bearer. A light bearer has been described as someone who shows by the smile on their face and the light in their eyes that their heart is at home. When our heart is not in the right place it shows not just in our countenance but also in the tone of our voice and the manner of our behavior.
There is a Temple in India that is known as the Temple of Light. Its actually quite dark but they have an unusual way of lightening it up. This is done by way of a giant candelabra in the middle that can hold hundreds of candles. The focus is very much on the community and how each person contributes to the life of that community and this is expressed by the symbolism of the candelabra.
Every new born babe is brought to the temple for a ceremony much like our Baptism ceremony. And as in our Baptism each child is given a candle that looks like wax but is filled with oil. We use something similar on the side altars.
The idea is that each time he or she comes to the temple the candle is brought and lit and placed among all the others. Each light contributes to the brightness of the building and when its not there, the quality of the overall light is diminished. Staying away visibly deprives others.
It’s a powerful visual reminder that each person is a light in their world and by participating in community and giving of their gifts and talents life he or she is allowing their light to shine.
Another interesting aspect of the symbolism that is quite ingenious is that as each candle is fitted into place it is automatically filled by way of a pump from a reservoir of oil stored beneath. In other words it is by giving of their light that he or she also receives and so the more the temple is filled with light the more the participants receive back in return. It’s a two way street of giving and receiving.
Jesus also said that a lamp was meant to shine and was never to be put under a tub. So I invite you to reflect a few moments and ask have I truly hear what Jesus is saying to me, that I am salt for the earth and I am light for the world. Has my salt become tasteless and if so why? And, if my light is not shining what tub am I hiding it under. It may be the tub we call shyness, that is really inverted pride, or could it be fear where my greatness scares me more than my weakness?