I haven’t done much cooking, but I do remember one instance in my life that I did cook a gumbo, by myself and just with a recipe a friend gave me. I was at a small summer program, and we had limited food options on the weekends, so I decided to cook gumbo for the people on that program. I was the only one from Louisiana, so I was by myself. Thankfully my good friend from Cutoff Louisiana had a gumbo recipe that he gave me. I began by cooking the chicken, adding the seasoning, then starting the roux. I’m sure you know how it all went! Now I must confess that I did sin as I was cooking, I used a canned roux from the store. But you must understand I’ve never made a gumbo before so cut me some slack, and I had no-one there who could help me. Even though I committed what may be a mortal sin by using a prepared roux, it still turned out good, and because the recipe made 20 or more servings, we had gumbo for multiple meals. The beauty of it was that the next day the gumbo was even better because it had longer for the flavors, the seasonings, and everything else to blend.
As I know from experience, salt and seasoning make things better, and without any flavorsome things are just not worth eating. Our Lord today compares us to the salt of the earth or maybe a better way to put it. We are the seasoning of the earth. The Gospel acts as a warning to our lives; if we are not enhancing the flavor of the earth we will be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
The question becomes, do the things we do improve those around us, and more importantly, does it bring glory to God? Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” We should be a light to the world and our light must shine out so that others can see the good that we do and glorify our heavenly father.
The first reading suggests how we can be a light to others. Isaiah tells us that when we give bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, and our light will break forth like the dawn. I know in my own life it’s easy to only look at my prayer life, how am I doing with my liturgy of the hours, my morning prayer and meditation and overlook how I’m doing with good deeds, with virtue and with generosity to the poor.
The readings challenge us to make our Christian lives more than just coming to Mass on Sunday and the prayers that we pray regularly. When we come to mass, when do our prayers we should be moved to go out and help our neighbor in need? We should be moved to be generous with the goods that we have, with our time and our talents to bring greater glory to God. Isaiah tells us that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, free the oppressed and all the other things he says, then our light will shine like the dawn. Jesus challenged his disciples to shine and be the salt of the earth.
However, I believe another challenge in our faith lives is we should have a foundation of prayer before going out to be the light to the world and the salt of the earth. That gumbo that I made was better the second and third time around; it wasn’t that I added anything to the gumbo after I made it, but simply the chance for all of the ingredients to sit in the pot together and to get to know each other helped. It’s like well-marinated meat. The longer you let it sit the better it will taste. You can’t go to the extreme but a couple of hours can make a world of difference in taste.
The same is true for our lives with the Lord and our going out to be the salt and light of the world. While our Christian lives are not only about prayer and going to Mass on Sunday, they lay as the foundation of our faith. I think of it as a jar of water, and you need to fill up the jar of water first before you can go and share the water with those who are thirsty. The same is true in our lives of faith. Prayer is the water that fills us up, and when we are full, we can share that with others.
Jesus’s challenge to us is that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the earth. Our lives should improve the lives of others, especially the poor, and build up the kingdom of God. However, just like a good gumbo, the longer you leave it to cook the better it tastes. May we first have a foundation in prayer and secondly use the grace we receive from our god to build up his kingdom and be the salt and the light of the world, bringing more and more people to God.