“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?
Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Jesus concludes Sunday’s Gospel with this great phrase. It is a play on words, which is why it sounds practically nonsensical in the English. “Seasoning” and “salting” can mean the same thing. But salt in itself is also an elemental seasoning. It is used to maintain freshness and purity. And fire is also associated with purity in scripture.
Jesus is reassuring the disciples:
Everyone is seasoned with pure essence, goodness. If you lose your inner essence (your saltiness, your purity, your fire), how will you recover it from anything outside of yourself?
In ancient times salt was highly valued. Jesus is reminding us to know our own self-worth. “Everyone is salted with fire.” Hold that integrity. Hold your shape and you will not feel threatened by others. “Have salt in yourselves.” When we encounter one another with a sense of self-worth we will “be at peace with one another.”
Holding our integrity is easier said than done. This is spiritual work. As Steve preached last week, it is human nature to want what others have. In this week’s gospel, Jesus is talking about that inclination and more. The disciples are wary of some others not following their group who are healing in the name of Jesus. The disciples want to reject the intentions and abilities of these outsiders because they somehow feel threatened by either their gifts, or devise that the healings are false. (“Who do the think they are?!”) Beyond being jealous or judgmental about what others have, we also may feel threatened by what others bring (even when they are bringing gifts for the good of the community).
It may take concerted effort and prayer to integrate our worthiness especially in the midst of life struggle: perhaps years of setbacks, disappointments, painful encounters or grief. We feel alone in our suffering and forget that others carry their own self doubts and struggles with worthiness. But the Christian community is designed to help us live into our identity as beloved children. Self-worth is our birthright. If we begin to open to that relationship with the divine and with ourselves we will be at peace with others. We will not feel threatened by the gifts of others; we will understand as Jesus says, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Perhaps it is easier to understand this part of the teaching through Matthew’s version of the story (5:13-16) in which Jesus pairs the salt with the light:
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? …
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Remember: You are the SALT of the earth and You are the LIGHT of the world. Our spiritual work is also to give glory when we see that light in others too!