Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
You are the salt of the earth . . . [and] light of the world. (Mt 5:13-14)
In the confessional of St. John Paul II Church, there is a simple painting of the return of the prodigal son. This was a gift to the parish from a family of a gentleman that I buried a couple of years before the dedication of the Church in Cedar Springs on December 1, 2019. There is a beautiful story behind this painting.
One Sunday, shortly after opening the new parish in Cedar Springs, a gentleman walked in the old church (now the chapel). Our ushers greeted him and invited him to remain for Mass. After Mass, he greeted me and said to me something like, “I am glad there is a Catholic Church in Cedar Springs. My faith felt asleep for a long time; God is calling me to be back at Mass.” I told him: “We are glad to have you.” A month later, he registered, and I presented him with the welcoming basket organized by our parishioners. Approximately two years after his registration, I was called to the hospital by his family to anoint him as he prepared to depart from this world. It was a beautiful celebration of the “Last Rites.” Even more beautiful when he pointed to the cross that was hung in his hospital room. I recognized the cross for it was from the welcoming basket. And these were his words: “I am like the prodigal son. I would like to thank you for opening the parish and thank the parishioners for being the light that is guiding me home to God, the Father.” At his funeral, I asked the family to allow me to choose the Holy Scriptures to be proclaimed. I chose the parable of the prodigal son as the Gospel and the First Reading, Second Reading, and Psalm were all about light.
On this 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Gospel picks up where we left off from last week, the Beatitudes. Another way to summarize the message of the Lord on this Sunday is this: if the Beatitudes are the conditions for the disciples of Jesus, then those who truly live the Beatitudes, their lives, while on their earthly journey, is truly salt and light for those around them: “You are the salt of the earth . . . [and] the light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14). Salt must maintain its capability of seasoning and light must retain its strength to illuminate all around. We, the disciples of Jesus, must be capable of transforming the world and enlightening the environment that fills with darkness due to sin.
In preparing the homily for this Sunday, I thank the Lord for the faith of the mentioned gentleman. I gaze upon the painting of the return of the prodigal son in the confessional and pray for his eternal rest. Furthermore, I pray that you and I, the people of this parish, check the level of salt in us (is it capable of seasoning?) and the oil of our soul (is there enough oil in us to be the strong light, scattering all the darkness?). From time to time, we need to do that. Our sinful life truly reduces the sodium level in us; and our bad habits truly dim the light that we received in baptism.
Let us thank the Lord who reminds us what a parish should be: It is a community of true salt and light. To be so, we all must go through a conversion. May our community always maintain that salt and light so as to season and enlighten the lives of all the people who encounter us just as we did for the mentioned gentleman many years ago! Amen.