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To Be Salt of the Earth

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“You are the salt of the earth.”

In today’s gospel Jesus tells us this very catchy and familiar phrase. It is also the motto of St. Francis de Sales Seminary, except they use the Latin, “vos estis sal terrae”. Sounds very inspirational. I must tell you, though, I don’t quite know what it means to be “the salt of the earth”. 

To be the salt, does it mean to be one of the people? For us priests, maybe it is a warning to maintain humility and not forget we are sinners like everyone else. My wife had that assignment  when I was a physician. When she noticed I was thinking too highly of myself she would remind me, we all put our pants on one leg at a time. I was never quite sure what that meant, but I listened. 

Maybe to be salt means that we, through our lives, are to be the flavor of humanity? We are to lead joy filled lives of service and thereby flavor the lives of those we meet. Through our relationship with Jesus, through our understanding of salvation in the midst of suffering, we can offer others a means of savoring life. 

I also cannot help but think of a common modern use of salt, especially at this time of year…to melt ice. Being the salt of the earth, we could melt the ice of anger and hate. As the salt, we can give traction to those whose ways are slippery and prone towards falling. As the salt, we can provide a safe path to God and home.

Now that I think about it, maybe I do know what it means to be the salt of the earth.

Sounds of the Spirit

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Stop! I want you to just stop. Take a moment and feel where your mind is. Are you thinking of what you need to yet get accomplished for Christmas? Are you thinking of the food and house you must prepare? Are you thinking, who gets what and did I forget anyone?

Can we stop and just listen to the sounds of the Spirit breaking through? One of my favorite lines of any of the many Christmas songs is from O LIttle Town of Bethlehem.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met with thee tonight.

It seems paradoxical, fear is the enemy of hope. This one line reveals the incarnation as something that bridges these two opposites. God becoming human changed the world and everyone in it, from the joyfully hopeful to the dreadfully fearful. And in this little place called Bethlehem, in this little stable, from this unremarkable couple, came this epic event.

God unsettles us with his opposites, choosing a humble beginning instead of a majestic entrance. This baby Jesus is visited by lowly shepherds and three kings. The birth of Jesus appears to do nothing, yet everything is changed. This year, I have thought of the gifts I have been given by being pastor of this parish. I have spent time thinking about those who clean our church, plow and salt our driveways, pay our bills and answer our phones. I also remember having all three pastors here for Holy Thursday, and having Archbishop Listecki for the dedication of our Risen Christ statue. I remember the baptisms, weddings and funerals. This place, our parish of St. Dominic is a place where the hopes and fears of all the years are met with thee tonight. It is what makes us family.

Have a blessed Christmas season and New Year,
Fr. Dennis Saran

Be-Loved

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I must tell you, the gospel readings for these last two months have been challenging to me. Words that started the month with “those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” A couple of weeks ago, the story of the prodigal son, and this week the story of poor Lazarus and the rich man. Most of the remarks from Jesus are directed to his disciples…that’s us. The words of Jesus around discipleship are both hard and easy at the same time.

Hard, because Jesus’ call to give up everything and follow him, means letting go of all the protections we have built up over the years. Protections which mask our shame, imagine our control, and falsify our security.

Easy, because of the realizations of the false, paper protections they are. What does God want from us? In short, he wants our response to the unconditional love he offers, and has been offering since he “knew us in the womb.” Why do we, including myself, find it so hard to believe God will provide?

Instead we struggle, we scheme, we try to make life work, and when it doesn’t, we run to God like injured little children run to their parent. I am sure God doesn’t mind how we come to him, but I also know the peace of really letting God provide, and knowing, even if sporadically, that his love lets us lead the best life possible. We could be distressed by the commands of Jesus by trying to be humble, to be compassionate, to be empathetic. The revelation in these attempts is the word “be”. If you wish to know what it takes to follow God, just remember who we are…his beloved, and stop trying so hard to “do” and instead…be-loved.

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