ColumnsNaming Grace

Salt of the earth

The first time my friend visited my parents’ home, she was shocked to spy candy dishes in the house filled with gum drops, Swedish Fish, chocolates. My father was my friend’s dentist, and she recalled, from childhood, enduring annual reprimands for eating too much candy. My dad was speaking professionally and wisely helping his patients to avoid fillings or crowns. But at home, it was a different story as my mom had a wicked sweet tooth. People loved stopping by for a sweet roll or a piece of candy. As mom often remarked, “Everyone needs a little sugar every day!” So, when speaking to his disciples about attracting others to Christianity, why did Jesus use salt? Not sugar?

From the Sermon on the Mount, “Jesus says to his disciples: ‘You are the salt of the earth.’” “Salt of the earth” is often translated today as “a good guy” or “hard­working gal” or “you can count on him.” Yet Jesus refers to something more — much more. In biblical times, salt was highly valued as a preservative and a seasoning. Jesus reminds us we have a part to play for the sake of Christ — a mission to carry out — in preserving our faith and attracting the world to Jesus Christ!

As a preservative, salt prevents meat from decaying. The Christian mission depends on our ability to preserve the faith — to know our faith and then introduce others to Jesus Christ. Authentic faith in Christ, communicated through words and action, carries the potential of transforming the world. Imagine salt, Christian disciples, shaken into every facet of our society: each neighborhood, school, hospital, care center, courthouse or business. Imagine salt, each of us, stirred into each prison, retirement home, refugee camp, support group, etc.

As a seasoning, salt draws out the flavor of the food, making any cookie, steak or vegetable much more delicious and attractive than before. As salt, Christians can draw others to faith in Jesus through our love, generosity and joy. When Christians care for the poor, lift the lonely, feed the hungry and shelter the homeless — with great personal sacrifice — people ­notice and are curious of our source. When Christians put the needs of others before themselves, they attract those struggling to belong and find worth.

As parents/grandparents, we are primarily responsible for preserving the faith — being salt — by passing God’s love onto our children and grandchildren. We serve as preservatives when we teach our children the truth and precepts of our faith. We draw others as seasoning when we care, with great tenderness, for our elderly and sick. We are witnesses as we cherish each child from the moment of conception. We are salt when our homes, our domestic churches, radiate with love, forgiveness, compassion and joy. We attract others when they witness resilience amid great loss, joy within deepest sorrow and peace beyond all understanding. Salt, genuine love, attracts!

Not only did my mom have a sweet tooth, she was sweet — kind, caring and full of life! She was also salt — as her life attracted others to the faith; a neighbor who often came for coffee and candy eventually converted, with my mother serving as her godmother. We may be sweet, but God calls us to be SALT: Saints. Actively. Living. Today. And that happens when we receive him — true sustenance — in the Eucharist. Now, that’s good news!

How are you being salt in your home?

How does your Christian witness attract others?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent.