5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Feb 5, 2023


 Last weekend, we explored how God turns the tables on worldly understandings of success and fulfillment and gives us a new set of core values by which we can measure our degree of belonging to God’s kingdom.

This weekend, we’re starting a new series, called ‘tough love’ that will explore the sometimes tough situations and people we encounter, every now and then, and now to handle these situations and people with the sort of love that Christ himself bestows.

Examples of when we need tough love are all around us……

  • A co-worker isn’t pulling their weight and others are talking about it but no one wants to say anything to the coworker, so you have to.
  • Your siblings are fighting and, rather than stay on the sidelines, and you have to step in, and play the role of peacemaker.
  • Your best friend has made a big mistake and is in deep trouble and you have to walk with him/her through the pain and the aftermath of their decision.
  • Try loving your spouse who’s no longer interested in strengthening your marriage.
  • Try loving your children when they start to use drugs or end up in prison.
  • Try loving your intrusive in-laws who always have something to say about how you should live your life and the priorities you should adopt.
  • (examples from parish life)

All of these situations are tough,  and they require tough love!

But rather than getting ourselves overwhelmed with the sheer volume of persons and situations that may require tough love, we need to start small.

  • with just one person or situation. (Do that right now!)

Then, we need to commit to praying for this person or situation every day.   And that prayer has an indefinite timeline because love itself doesn’t have a timeline.

  • What’s more, we must commit to loving that person, even when we continue to experience ingratitude, hostility and resentment from him/her.

That’s what it takes to be salt for the earth and the light of the world!

Someone once told me I looked like a salt shaker. I took it as a condiment. (punsandoneliners.com)

Salt and light are used by Jesus as symbols of how a disciple should minister to others.

  • In the ANE, light kept persons safe from harm and provided hope and inspiration in times of despair and longing.
  • Compare that with darkness.  (darkness, more vulnerable to attack.   We can’t see as clearly.  We’re not as focussed as we should be.   (Nature TV:   One reason suggested for why snoring developed among mammalian species….as a way to ward off attacks from predators at night.)
    • (Isaiah 58:7 states that being conscious of the disadvantaged lives of others and taking steps to improving their lot in life is a characteristic of a person of light!)
    • –“to share bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into your house, to cover the naked”……(when we take care of the vulnerable, . Our light shall break forth like the dawn!  —Isaiah 58:8)
  • In ANE, Salt helped to preserve food, to give it flavour, and in some places, was even used as money. (Interesting fact:  The word ‘salary’ comes from the word ‘salt,’ as people were often paid with it.)
  • Salt that had no flavor, was useless!
    • Christians who make no effort to change the world are flavorless, of little value to the Kingdom.
    • Christians who blend into the world and are like everyone else are also flavorless and have little positive impact on another’s life.
    • We’re called to be flavorful salt! We’re called to add spice to life, to live life to the full!  Salt that influences our world, salt that’s valuable for the spread of God’s Kingdom!

Lest we think that Jesus was asking just a select group of followers to be salt and light, we need to remember that Jesus is still just outside of Capernaum, delivering this sermon to a group of mostly illiterate tradesmen and fishermen.  They might have thought that they were nobodies in a backwater town, of little or no consequence to the building up of the K of G.   (maybe some people here today, feel the same way!)

Jesus doesn’t think so, and he lets them and us know it!   They, just like ALL the rest of of Jesus’ followers—– called to be salt of the earth and light for the world!

  • We’re called to make a difference in the lives of our spouse, our children, our extended family, and friends by the way we live our lives, by the priorities we make, and by the love with which we unconditionally bestow upon them, especially when things get tough!  (example)
  • We’re called to reject the feeling that we’re just wasting our time, that the person we’re giving tough love to, won’t ever change and that our relationship with them won’t ever change, that they’re hopelessly and permanently mired in a mud from which they can never be fully freed. We’re called to reject the notion that their lives don’t matter.    (example)

No one said offering tough love would be easy!  Indeed, St. Paul recounts to us in our second reading, that he came to the Corinthians in weakness, fear and trembling, but that despite it all, he decided to know nothing among them, except Jesus Christ and him crucified.   It was through his continual meditation on the crucified Christ that the Holy Spirit would manifest in him, the power of God to would-be believers.

As disciples of our crucified and risen Lord….

  • we need to add the flavor of the good news to those who are overwhelmed with bad news.
  • we need to shine the light of the good news on those who feel under attack, helpless, afraid.
  • we need to be salt for the earth and the light of the world, as God’s intentional missionary disciples, this day and every day!

Next weekend, we’ll explore how tough love challenges us to go beyond the law and its obligations and to immerse ourselves instead, in a heartfelt, generous response to another’s hurting or struggles.




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