“In Suffering: How Can We Be Be Salt and Light? Light?” Mother Joyce Locht, February 9, 2014
Matthew 5:13-20 I Corinthians 2:1-12 Imagine Jesus turning to the disciples to say, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” These words are personal and direct. The disciples of Jesus are to be salt and light to the world, even when criticized and persecuted. John the Baptist had already been killed. It would seem then, that Jesus’ assertion to be salt and light is a call to mature discipleship – a call for disciples to remain steadfast, not to lose their delightful taste and to reflect God’s eternal and true light – in spite of difficult circumstances. We are also disciples of Jesus. What does Jesus’ assertion “You are the salt of the earth”, “You are the light of the world” mean to us? When life becomes difficult and painful, how are we to be salt and light? Suffering is part of life; we all suffer. Sometimes as a consequence of our actions or decisions we have made, but not nearly always. Many times, suffering comes to us through no choice of our own, or it comes to someone we love and we are left accompanying a loved one who suffers. We long to remove or ease the burden, but too often, these longings are beyond our abilities to accomplish. We feel helpless and bereft. How can we be salt and light when overwhelmed by suffering? Surrender to the goodness of God is one way in which our pain and sorrow can be transformed into salt and light. Surrender is most often associated with failure or giving up something dear to us, which is only another kind of suffering. We would rather fight to the bitter end to fix the problem and often do so until we can fight no more. But surrender to God is of another kind. Surrender to God means we are housed in God. Surrender links us to the mystery of God. God reveals wisdom to us
through the Spirit and the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.1 Surrender brings us into the depths of God. In Jesus’ life, surrendering to the will of God was not failure. Everything was gained in his surrender. When failure, sickness or loss, or even the threat of these, comes upon us and there seems to be nothing bigger in our lives than this suffering – we are forced to face our weakness. In this truthfulness, we find our real identity, our real home. It is with God, who created us and loves us unconditionally and uniquely – as uniquely as you and I are unique. This place of humility can change us for good and for the good. If we surrender our weakness and pain to join Christ’s suffering, we will come out stronger in the broken places and more mature disciples. Few are able to be salt and light while enduring pain and hardship and we should not judge harshly others or ourselves for this lack. We are not banished from God, nor from the community of faith when we struggle or suffer. But once the intensity of suffering lessens, we may recognize how we were held tenderly and given extra-sacramental graces that sustained us. Feeling the depth of our own needs sharpens our understanding of others’ suffering and pain. It leads us into greater union with God and deeper compassion for the woundedness of those around us. It is at this point in our journey that we are more able to be salt and light to the world. We can be healing salt. Our stories of struggle and grace to turn to God in the midst of suffering help to preserve the good in others, and to provide some light in the darkness that is all around us. We share our stories not to boast about spiritual accomplishments, but to point to the One who is able to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. In so doing, we offer glory and praise to God.
I Corinthians 2:10